After NOZZE DI FIGARO, I think IDOMENEO is my favorite Mozart opera. Some folks think it's a big bore, but it is just crammed with melodic beauties and dramatic strokes. The chorus has much to do, from the lilting "Placido e il mar" to the horrific starkness of their great third act utterances.
Levine is back in the Met pit; he does very little - the orchestra senses what he wants and delivers it.
Ben Heppner was in excellent form. During the past few years his performances have been wildly erratic. I remember when he won the Met Auditions and Birgit Nilsson decided to award him the first Birgit Nilsson Prize and then everyone started talking about the "new heldentenor'. But I never thought he had the baritonal sound we associate with heldentenors. He is a spinto, that's why Walther and Lohengrin have worked so well for him. He sounded like the old Ben tonight, with passages of real beauty, and a terrific go at "Fuor del mar" that had the audience shouting at the end.
Dorothea Roschmann sailed to the top echelon of my list of current favorite singers with her gorgeously sung Ilia. The voice is very "present" and rings beautifully into the house with no trace of forcing. Her sound has both darkish and bright elements, wonderfully expressive. The colours seem to come from the "poitrine'...not real chest voice but a shaded resonance that I have admired in the past in singers like Vaness and Frittoli. In an odd way, Roschmann's timbre reminded me of Mara Zampieri's too. With her passion, her burgeoning lyricism and attractive presence, Roschmann was captivating. I found myself imagining her in many roles including - surprisingly- Violetta!
Kristine Jepson was the excellent Composer in the Boston ARIADNE that put Debbie Voigt on the map, and Jepson repeated that role with great success at Christine Brewer's fantastic Met debut a couple seasons back. At this performance her Idamante took a few moments to warm up; the voice seemed a little shallow and breathy at first. But she got it going and gave a very satisfying portrayal; her blend with Roschmann was really heavenly.
Olga Makarina seemed miscast as Elettra; she is by vocal nature more of an Ilia. We are used to Elettras like Behrens, Neblett, Niska and Vaness. Makarina's lightish coloratura was at sea in her opening aria; she tried darkening the middle and lower in an attempt to project but it wasn't working. But later, in "Idol mio", she showed herself to far better advantage with a clear, sweetish sound that seethed with venom just below the surface. She had a success with the big mad scene, "D'Oreste, d'Ajace!" which she topped off with a sustained high-C (I don't think the Met has ever allowed anyone else to interpolate the C there).
Debuting tenor Jeffrey Francis was a very fine Arbace, following in the footsteps of the splendid John Alexander who created this role at the Met years ago. Francis seemed a potential candidate for the title role as well. I was familiar with Simon O'Neill from several appearances at Juilliard, notably a powerful Chevalier de la Force in DIALOGUES OF THE CARMELITES. Simon has a big voice, as his "coming events" list indicates (Florestan, Siegmund). Tonight in his Met debut as the Priest of Neptune he showed that power as well as warmth and an appealing Italianate feeling. He was deservedly cheered at his solo bow. Stephen Milling as the voluminous offstage Voice of Neptune made me look forward all the more to his upcoming Sarastro. Soprano Lisette Oropesa (debut) and tenor Tony Stevenson had featured roles and they sounded lovely.
I'll try to see the second cast of this opera later in the season; Roschmann repeats Ilia and the other principals change.
After all the hoopla of the opening night, it was nice to get down to some serious opera. There were many empty seats, however, and many people fled at each intermission.