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Glyndebourne On Tour
Richard Fairman
Financial Times

This production of Idomeneo was not much of a success in the summer. The Glyndebourne Festival brought together four heavyweights - conductor Simon Rattle, producer Peter Sellars, designer Anish Kapoor and choreographer Mark Morris - but they only managed to deliver a featherweight punch. It is brave to take it on the autumn tour, especially as the opera ran to more than over four hours during the festival proper. But with the final ballet excised and some other trimmings, the touring version of it is quicker on its feet.

Kenneth Montgomery is not a Mozart conductor who likes to hang around. It would have been nice if he could have brought more emotional weight to the music, but if that meant trading in his keen sense of rhythm and propulsion, most people would settle for the compromise.

It makes a change for Idomeneo to dominate the opera that bears his name and Peter Bronder only did so by throwing his vocal weight around at the expense of Mozartian style. Cara O'Sullivan's gleaming soprano dealt beautifully with Elettra's lyrical music, but seemed to run for cover before her spitfire arias. Marie Arnet's Ilia and Julianne de Villier's Idamante were too pale.

Then again, anything would pale before Kapoor's paintbox settings. Designers have approached Idomeneo from various standpoints over the years, but he must be the first to see it from the position of a gynaecologist - a sort of "bend-down-and-peer-up-there" view. The singers enter and exit through a slit at the back of the stage. Very odd, and the set seems to soak up the sound unhelpfully.

Sellars is back riding his favourite hobby-horse, East versus West tension, with Idamante becoming a Muslim sympathiser. The stylised gestures that were so effective in his wondrous Glyndebourne Theodora did not work here. Every time the singers bent over double, it just looked as if the Glyndebourne canteen had left something nasty in the chicken tikka.

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