Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Full of sound and fury

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Idomeneo, re di Creta ossia Ilia e Idamante (usually referred to simply as Idomeneo) is an Italian opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The libretto was adapted by Giambattista Varesco from a French text by Antoine Danchet, which had been set to music by André Campra in 1712. Mozart and Varesco were commissioned in 1780 by Karl Theodor, Elector of Bavaria for a court carnival.

It was first performed at the Cuvilliés Theatre of the Residence in Munich on January 29, 1781. Written when he was 24, Idomeneo was Mozart's first mature opera seria, and with it he demonstrated his mastery of orchestral color, accompanied recitatives, and melodic line. In certain aspects (e.g. the choirs), however, this opera is still an experimental drama, resulting more in a sequence of sets than in a well developed plot. Mozart also had to fight with the mediocre author of the libretto, the court chaplain Varesco, making large cuts and changes, even down to specific words and vowels disliked by the singers (too many "i"s in "rinvigorir").

Today Idomeneo is part of the standard operatic repertoire. There are several recordings of it), and it is regularly performed.

The plot

Act I

Island of Crete. Ilia, daughter of King Priam, loves Prince Idamante, son of Idomeneo, but she hesitates to acknowledge her love. Idamante frees the Trojan prisoners. He tells Ilia, who is rejecting his love, that it is not his fault that their fathers were enemies. Trojans and Cretans together welcome the return of peace, but Elettra, jealous of Ilia, does not approve of Idamante's clemency toward the enemy prisoners. Arbace, the king's confidant, brings news that Idomeneo has been lost at sea while returning to Crete. Elettra, fearing that Ilia, a Trojan, soon will be Queen of Crete, feels the furies of Hades tormenting her.

On a deserted seashore, after the shipwreck, Idomeneo recalls the vow he made to Neptune -- to sacrifice, if he arrived safe, the first living creature he meets on shore. Idamante approaches him, but because the two have not seen each other for a long time, recognition is difficult. When Idomeneo realizes the youth is his own child, he orders Idamante never to seek him out again. Grief-stricken by his father's rejection, Idamante runs off. Cretan troops disembarking from Idomeneo's ship are met by their wives, and all praise Neptune.

Act II

At the king's palace, Idomeneo seeks counsel from Arbace, who says another victim could be sacrificed if Idamante were sent into exile. Idomeneo orders his son to escort Elettra to her home, Argos. Idomeneo's kind words to Ilia move her to declare that since she has lost everything, he will be her father and Crete her country. As she leaves, Idomeneo realizes that sending Idamante into exile has cost Ilia her happiness as well as his own. Elettra welcomes the idea of going to Argos with Idamante.

At the port of Sidon, Idomeneo bids his son farewell and urges him to learn the art of ruling while he is away. Before the ship can sail, however, a storm breaks out, and a sea serpent appears. Recognizing it as a messenger from Neptune, the king offers himself as atonement for having violated his vow to the god.


In the royal garden, Ilia asks the breezes to carry her love to Idamante, who appears, explaining that he must go to fight the serpent. When he says he may as well die as suffer the torments of his rejected love, Ilia confesses her love. They are surprised by Elettra and Idomeneo. When Idamante asks his father why he sends him away, Idomeneo can only reply that the youth must leave. Ilia asks for consolation from Elettra, who is preoccupied with revenge. Arbace comes with news that the people, led by the High Priest of Neptune, are clamoring for Idomeneo. The High Priest tells the king of the destruction caused by Neptune's monster, urging Idomeneo to reveal the name of the person whose sacrifice is demanded by the god. When the king confesses that his own son is the victim, the populace is horrified.

Outside the temple, the king and High Priest join with Neptune's priests in prayer that the god may be appeased. Arbace brings news that Idamante has killed the monster. As Idomeneo fears new reprisals from Neptune, Idamante enters in sacrificial robes, saying he understands his father's torment and is ready to die. After an agonizing farewell, Idomeneo is about to sacrifice his son when Ilia intervenes, offering her own life instead. The Voice of Neptune is heard. Idomeneo must yield the throne to Ilia and Idamante. Everyone is relieved except Elettra, who longs for her own death. Idomeneo presents Idamante and his bride as the new rulers. The people call upon the god of love and marriage to bless the royal pair and bring peace.

Mozart Opera Dropped Due to Terror Threat
The Deutsche Oper in Berlin announced Monday "with great regret" that it had scratched Hans Neuenfels' version of the Mozart opera "Idomeneo" from the program this season because certain scenes presented an "incalculable security risk" for the theater.

Neuenfels, who describes surrealist artist Max Ernst as his "spiritual father," is already known for his provocative work. His "Idomeneo" already stirred up hefty protests when it premiered in 2003.

In the epilogue, Idomeneo, the king of Crete, comes on stage comes on stage with a bloody sack in his hand. He then pulls the heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed out of the sack and places them triumphantly on four chairs.

Neuenfels said he could understand the decision of the theater directors, but added they shouldn't let themselves be intimidated, the Berliner Morgenpost reported Tuesday.

The Sturm und Drang opera, set in the capital of Crete just after the Trojan War, addresses human resistance to making sacrifices to the gods.

"To avoid endangering the public and its employees, the Deutsche Oper in Berlin has decided to refrain from showing "Idomeneo" in November," the opera house said.

As early as July, security officials had warned of the security risk associated with the opera. A risk analysis was prepared, which formed the basis of the opera house's decision to cancel "Idomeneo."

"We have advised that a performance could result in disturbances," said police spokesman Bernhard Schodrowski, adding that the theater decided on its own to cut the opera. Police emphasized that no concrete threats are known at this time.

Berlin Opera Pulled Over Muhammad Scene
BERLIN - A leading opera house called off a production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" that features the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad, setting off a furious debate Tuesday over Islam, freedom of speech and the role of art.

The furor is the latest in Europe over religious sensitivities _ following cartoons of the prophet first published in a Danish newspaper and recent remarks by Pope Benedict XVI decrying holy war.

After its premiere in 2003, the production by Hans Neuenfels drew widespread criticism over a scene in which King Idomeneo presents the severed heads not only of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, but also of Muhammad, Jesus and Buddha.

The severed heads are an addition by director Neuenfels to the 225-year-old opera, which was last performed by the company in March 2004.

Outraged politicians called the decision to pull the production "crazy" and "a fatal signal" of caving into extremism. Response from Germany's Islamic community was mixed, with some praising the decision and others calling on Muslims to accept the role of provocation in art.

The leader of Germany's Islamic Council welcomed the move, saying a depiction of Muhammad with a severed head "could certainly offend Muslims."

But in an interview with German radio, Ali Kizilkaya added: "I think it is horrible that one has to be afraid ... That is not the right way to open dialogue."

The leader of Germany's Turkish community said it was time Muslims accepted freedom of expression in art.

"This is about art, not about politics," Kenan Kolat told Bavarian Radio. "We should not make art dependent on religion _ then we are back in the Middle Ages."

Neuenfels has insisted his staging not be altered, saying the scene where the king presents the severed heads represents his protest against "any form of organized religion or its founders."

"We know the consequences of the conflict over the (Muhammad) caricatures," Deutsche Oper said in a statement. "We believe that needs to be taken very seriously and hope for your support."

It is not only Muslims who have been offended by depictions of religion in art.

Last month Madonna sparked criticism from some Roman Catholics in Germany for a show that staged a mock crucifixion. Mel Gibson's 2004 movie, "The Passion of Christ" met with disapproval from some Catholics and some Jews. In 2004, a Birmingham, England, theater canceled its run of "Behzti" after a violent protest by members of the Sikh community.

Still, many in normally open and tolerant Berlin, which has become a home for cutting edge and often contentious artistic productions, cautioned against compromising on issues of freedom of speech and art.

"Our ideas about openness, tolerance and freedom must be lived on the offensive. Voluntary self-limitation gives those who fight against our values a confirmation in advance that we will not stand behind them," said Mayor Klaus Wowereit.

Bernd Neumann, the federal government's top cultural official, said that "problems cannot be solved by keeping silent."

"When the concern over possible protests leads to self-censorship, then the democratic culture of free speech becomes endangered."

German minister assails alleged overreaction by Muslims to provocations
WASHINGTON German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble decried on Tuesday what he said was the tendency of some Muslim radicals to act in a "crazy" manner with minimal provocation.

Schaeuble, who is here on an official visit, also took sides with Pope Benedict XVI in the conflict with some Muslims that arose after a speech he gave two weeks ago at Regensburg University in Germany .

"I will never accept that it isn't allowed for the pope or anyone else to make such a speech," Schaeuble told reporters at a breakfast news conference.

In the same vein, he defended the right of Danish newspapers to print cartoons that many Muslims found offensive and generated protests in many countries.

"I will not accept that there will be violence because people don't like some pictures in newspapers," Schaeuble said.

He also said some non-Muslims go too far in attempting to accommodate Muslim sensitivities.

As an example, he cited a recent decision by a leading opera house in Germany to cancel a production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" after Berlin security officials warned of an "incalculable risk" because of scenes dealing with Islam, as well as other religions.

By showing too much deference to Muslims on such matters, he said, the non-Muslim world "will not succeed in convincing people" that free speech and tolerance "are better than fundamentalism."

He acknowledged that it is not easy to deal with a situation in which some Muslims react disproportionately to what he considered to be minor offenses.

"It's a difficult situation with some Muslims. They tend to use anything to become crazy. I can't accept that," he said.

Opera on the Prophet called off
German critics saw the controversial opera as a radical attack on religion and religious wars.

Video shows beheading of American hostage


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