Idomeneo English Touring Opera review: ‘the score delivers on all fronts’

English Touring Opera's Idomeneo. Picture: Richard Hubert Smith

English Touring Opera's Idomeneo. Picture: Richard Hubert Smith - Credit: Richard Hubert Smith

Live opera has to grab its audience with its immediacy and vivid, exciting storytelling. Especially now that live link-ups to the Royal Opera House bring first class performances to cosy cinemas at a fraction of the cost.

Catherine Carby (Idamante), Galina Averina (Ilia) and the Chorus in the English Touring Opera's Idom

Catherine Carby (Idamante), Galina Averina (Ilia) and the Chorus in the English Touring Opera's Idomeneo. Picture: Richard Hubert Smith - Credit: Richard Hubert Smith

Does English Touring Opera's current production make the grade?

Frankie Bradshaw's set is awe inspiring. The giant scale of Idomeneo's Crete is ingeniously conveyed. As the curtain rises the palace walls go up and up.

In magical fashion, the central portion of this impenetrable edifice slides open, so we can flow from one location to the next in the blink of an eye.

On the face of it, that would make this a really immediate production, but the effect of the central reveal is disappointingly two dimensional and remote.


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The singers do a great job of reeling us in, however. Catherine Carby as Idomeneo's son, Idamante, catches us up in her grief and anguish with a gorgeous voice, and heartfelt delivery.

We long to see the return of Idomeneo for Idamante's sake. Little do we know that the king has made a pact with Neptune to sacrifice the first person he sees, and his son will fall foul of this promise.

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With its subtlety and realism, the first half is perfectly balanced. Idamante's two suitors: Ilia (Galina Averina) and Elettra (Paula Sides) keep things simmering nicely.

But Idomeneo is an opera of two halves, and after the interval everything changes. As the king tries to wriggle out of his commitment to the gods, it's a world of mythical sea creatures and high drama. Neptune speaks, Elettra goes potty and everyone nearly gets sacrificed.

This imaginative landscape requires depth, shadow, and impressive effects.

Under conductor Jonathan Peter Kenny, the score delivers on all fronts. But the lights and action on stage don't live up to the ambitions of the pit.

A picturesque production that gets a high score for music and acting, but doesn't pack a full punch in its storytelling.

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