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Work data
Title: Idomeneus
Original title: Idomeneo
German title page of the libretto, Munich 1781

German title page of the libretto, Munich 1781

Shape: Tragédie lyrique in three acts
Original language: Italian
Music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto : Giambattista Varesco
Literary source: Idoménée by Antoine Danchet
Premiere: January 29, 1781
Place of premiere: Residenztheater , Munich
Playing time: approx. 3 hours (without ballet)
Place and time of the action: Sidonia ( Kydonia ), capital of Crete , shortly after the end of the Trojan War .
  • Idomeneo / Idomeneus , King of Crete ( tenor )
  • Idamante , his son ( soprano , castrato )
  • Ilia , princess of Troy , daughter of Priam (soprano)
  • Elettra / Elektra , daughter of Agamemnon , king of Argos (soprano)
  • Arbace , confidante of Idomeneos (tenor)
  • High Priest of Neptune (tenor)
  • the voice ( bass )
  • Trojans, Cretans, warriors from Argos and Crete, sailors, priests, people ( chorus )
  • Entourage of Idamante, Entourage of Idomeneos, Entourage of Iliad (extras)
  • Cretans, Cretans (ballet)

Idomeneo ( KV 366, with ballet music KV 367) is a tragédie lyrique (original name: "Dramma per musica") in Italian and in three acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart based on a libretto by Giambattista Varesco . It was premiered on January 29, 1781 in the Munich Residenztheater .


The ancient material tells of the Cretan King Idomeneus who, after returning home from the Trojan War, is forced to sacrifice his own son in order to appease the god Neptune . It deals with the relationship between humans and gods.

The following table of contents and scenes are based on the libretto of the New Mozart Edition .

first act

Gallery in the Royal Palace adjoining the Ilias

Scene 1. Ilia, kidnapped to Crete as a prisoner of war Trojan princess, longs for her lost home and at the same time feels love for her enemy of war, the Cretan prince Idamante, who saved her from drowning. This, however, has already been promised to Elettra - the daughter of the defeated Agamemnon , who found refuge in Crete (No. 1. Aria Ilia: “Padre, germani, addio!”).

Scene 2. Idamante happily announces that his father Idomeneo's returning ships have been sighted. He gives freedom to the Trojans and confesses his love to Ilia (No. 2. Aria Idamante: “Non ho colpa”).

Scene 3. In front of the assembled people, the chains of the captured Trojans are loosened (No. 3. Chorus: “Godiam la pace, trionfi Amore”).

Scene 4. The jealous Elettra criticizes the release of the enemy as an insult to all of Greece.

Scene 5. Arbace appears with the news that the king's fleet is in distress and Idomeneo is dead. Idamante, dismayed, hurries to the beach.

Scene 6. Elettra remains extremely angry, who loves the prince and cannot bear that he turns to Ilia (No. 4. Aria Elettra: “Tutte nel cor vi sento”).

Shore of the still moving sea with ship wreckage

Scene 7. The castaways beg the gods for rescue (No. 5. Choir: “Pietà! Numi, pietà!”).

Scene 8. The god Neptune appears on the sea, commanding the winds to retreat. Gradually the sea calms down. Idomeneo begs Neptune for help. Neptune withdraws into the sea with dark looks. The returnees are saved (pantomime and recitative Idomeneo: “Eccoci salvi alfin”).

Scene 9. Idomeneo is not only happy to be saved. To appease Neptune, he has vowed to sacrifice the first living being he meets on the beach. He is plagued by feelings of guilt and asks himself who will be the innocent victim (No. 6. Aria Idomeneo: “Vedrommi intorno l'ombra dolente”).

Scene 10. Idomeneo meets his son Idamante on the beach. He is delighted to see his supposedly dead father alive again. Idomeneo, on the other hand, is appalled by the tragic encounter. He turns away and hurries away. Idamante remains deeply affected by the abrupt rejection (No. 7. Idamante's aria: “Il padre adorato”).


The Cretan troops who have returned home with Idomeneo enter the country (No. 8th March) and are greeted by their happy wives (No. 8a. Dance of the Cretan Women). The soldiers praise the god Neptune (No. 9. Choir: “Nettuno s'onori, quel nome risuoni”).

Second act

Royal apartments

Scene 1. Arbace advises Idomeneo to send his son, who knows nothing about the vow, far away in order not to have to sacrifice him (No. 10a. Arie Arbace: "Se il tuo duol").

Scene 1 (alternative). Ilia wants to do without Idamante so that he can keep his marriage promise to Elettra. However, Idamante only loves Ilia (No. 10b. Rondo Idamante: “Non temer, amato bene”).

Scene 2. Ilia thanks Idomeneo for the good treatment. He is now like a father to her (No. 11. Aria Ilia: “Se il padre perdei”).

Scene 3. The king recognizes the mutual love of Iliad and Idamante. He suspects that it could be the trigger for Neptune's anger (No. 12a or 12b. Aria Idomeneo: "Fuor del mar").

Scene 4. Idomeneo has chosen his son to be Elettra's companion when she returns to Argos. Elettra hopes to win Idamante back on the way (No. 13. Aria Elettra: “Idol mio, se ritroso” - No. 14. March and recitative Elettra: “Odo da lunge armonioso suono”).

The port of Kydonia with ships on the shore

Scene 5. Elettra and her people are ready to leave. Since the sea is calm, everyone is confident (No. 15. Choir Elettra / Choir: “Placido è il mar, andiamo”).

Scene 6. Idamante and Elettra say goodbye to Idomeneo (No. 16. Terzett Elettra / Idamante / Idomeneo: “Pria di partir, oh Dio!”). Shortly before the ships cast off, a new storm breaks up, destroying the entire fleet. A terrible monster rises from the sea (No. 17. Choir: “Qual nuovo terrore!”). The god of the sea takes his toll, and Idomeneo offers himself in vain to him as a sacrifice in order to spare his son. The Cretans flee in horror (No. 18. Choir: “Corriamo, fuggiamo”).

Third act

Royal garden

Scene 1. Ilia longs for her lover. She wishes that the air and the plants bring him their love greetings (No. 19. Aria Ilia: “Zeffiretti lusinghieri”).

Scene 2. Idamante says goodbye to Ilia because he wants to fight the monster, and the two openly confess their love to each other (No. 20a. Duet Ilia / Adamante: "S'io non moro a questi accenti" or No. 20b. Duet KV 489 Ilia / Idamante: "Spiegarti non possi'io").

Scene 3. They are caught in their embrace by the king and Elettra who ask the prince again to leave Crete (No. 21. Quartet Ilia / Elettra / Idamante / Idomeneo: “Andrò ramingo e solo”). Idomeneo leaves sadly.

Scene 4. Arbace reports that the people, led by Neptune's high priest, demand to see the king. Idomeneo, Elettra and Ilia make their way to the palace.

Scene 5. Arbace fears the fall of Crete. He hopes that at least the prince can be saved (No. 22. Arie Arbace: “Se colà ne 'fati è scritto”).

Large square in front of the palace, occupied by statues

Scene 6. The high priest describes the horrors of the monster to the king and urges him to finally announce the name of the victim to the people and to keep his oath. Idomeneo gives in and gives the name of his son (no. 23. Recitative High Priest / Idomeneo: "Vogli intorno lo sguarda, oh sire"). Everyone reacts with horror (No. 24. High priest / choir: “Oh voto tremendo!”).

Outside of the temple of Poseidon surrounded by a large atrium, with the sea in the distance

Scene 7. The sacrificial ceremony is being prepared in the Temple of Poseidon (No. 25 March - No. 26. Cavatine Idomeneo: “Accogli, oh re del mar” - Choir: “Stupenda vittoria!”).

Scene 8. The rushing Arbace reports of Idamante's victory in the fight against the monster. Idomeneo fears that this will reignite Neptune's anger.

Scene 9. Idamante, in a white robe, with a wreath of flowers on her head, is shown in. He is ready to die, but wants his father to carry out the fatal blow himself. He asks Idomeneo to look after Ilia like a father afterwards.

Scene 10. At the last moment, Ilia runs over to fend off the blade. She explains that Idomeneo misinterpreted the will of the gods. Heaven does not want to free Greece from her sons, but from her enemies. As a native Phrygian, she is one of them. She kneels before the priest to accept the judgment in place of Idamante. At this moment the voice of the statue of Neptune announces that Poseidon's wrath will be appeased if Idomeneo hands over the crown to Idamante and Ilia becomes queen (The voice: No. 28a. "Idomeneo cessi esser re" or No. 28b. "A Idomeneo perdona ").

Last scene. Idomeneo follows the divine command immediately (No. 30. Idomeneo recitative: “Popoli, a voi l'ultima legge”). Idamante receives the royal crown in a pantomime. Everyone celebrates the love of the new royal couple (No. 31. Choir: "Scenda Amor, scenda Imeneo" - No. 32. Ballet)



The orchestral line-up for the opera includes the following instruments:

Music numbers

The music numbers are listed in the New Mozart Edition as follows:

  • overture

first act

  • Scene 1
    • Recitative (Ilia): "Quando avran fine omai"
    • No. 1. Aria (Ilia): "Padre, germani, addio!"
    • Recitative (Ilia): "Ecco, Idamante, ahimè!"
  • Scenes 2–3
    • Recitative (Idamante, Ilia): "Radunate i Troiani, ite"
    • No. 2. Aria (Idamante): "Non ho colpa"
    • Recitative (Ilia, Idamante): "Ecco il misero resto de 'Troiani"
    • No. 3. Choir (two Cretans, two Trojans): "Godiam la pace, trionfi Amore"
  • Scenes 4-6
    • Recitative (Elettra, Idamante, Arbace, Ilia): "Prence, signor, tutta la Grecia oltraggi"
    • No. 4. Aria (Elettra): "Tutte nel cor vi sento"
  • Scene 7
    • No. 5. Choir: “Pietà! Numi, pietà! "
  • Scene 8
    • Pantomime and recitative (Idomeneo): "Eccoci salvi alfin"
  • Scenes 9–10
    • Recitative (Idomeneo): "Oh voi, di Marte e di Nettuno"
    • No. 6. Aria (Idomeneo): "Vedrommi intorno l'ombra dolente"
    • Recitative (Idomeneo, Idamante): “Cieli! che veggo? "
    • No. 7. Aria (Idamante): "Il padre adorato"


    • No. 8. March
    • No. 8a. Dance of the Cretan Women
    • No. 9. Choir: "Nettuno s'onori, quel nome risuoni"

Second act

  • Scene 1
    • No. 10a. Recitative and aria
      • Recitative (Arbace, Idomeneo): "Tutto m'è noto"
      • Aria (Arbace): "Se il tuo duol"
    • or no. 10b. Scene with Rondo KV 490
      • Recitative (Ilia, Adamante): “Non più. Tutto ascoltai "
      • Rondo (Idamante): "Non temer, amato bene"
  • Scene 2
    • Recitative (Ilia, Idomeneo): "Se mai pomposo apparse"
    • No. 11. Aria (Ilia): "Se il padre perdei"
  • Scenes 3–4
    • Recitative (Idomeneo): "Qual mi conturba i sensi"
    • either
      • No. 12a. Aria (Idomeneo): "Fuor del mar"
      • Recitative (Idomeneo, Elettra): "Frettolosa e giuliva Elettra vien"
    • or
      • No. 12b. Aria (Idomeneo): "Fuor del mar"
      • Recitative (Elettra): "Chi mai del mio provo"
    • No. 13. Aria (Elettra): "Idol mio, se ritroso"
    • No. 14. March and recitative (Elettra): "Odo da lunge armonioso suono"
  • Scene 5
    • Recitative (Elettra): "Sidonie sponde!"
    • No. 15. Choir (Elettra, choir): "Placido è il mar, andiamo"
  • Scene 6
    • Recitative (Idomeneo, Idamante): "Vattene prence"
    • No. 16. Trio (Elettra, Idamante, Idomeneo): "Pria di partir, oh Dio!"
    • No. 17. Choir: "Qual nuovo terrore!"
    • Recitative (Idomeneo): "Eccoti in me barbaro Nume!"
    • No. 18. Choir: "Corriamo, fuggiamo"

Third act

  • Scene 1
    • Recitative (Ilia): "Solitudini amiche"
    • No. 19. Aria (Ilia): "Zeffiretti lusinghieri"
    • Recitative (Ilia): "Ei stesso vien ... oh Dei!"
  • Scene 2
    • Recitative (Idamante, Ilia): "Principessa, a'tuoi sguardi"
    • No. 20a. Duet (Ilia, Adamante): "S'io non moro a questi accenti"
    • or no. 20b. Duet KV 489 (Ilia, Idamante): "Spiegarti non possi'io"
  • Scene 3
    • Recitative (Idomeneo, Ilia, Idamante, Elettra): “Cieli! che vedo? "
    • No. 21. Quartet (Ilia, Elettra, Idamante, Idomeneo): "Andrò ramingo e solo"
  • Scene 4
    • Recitative (Arbace, Ilia, Idomeneo, Elettra): "Sire, alla reggia tua immensa turba"
  • Scene 5
    • Recitative (Arbace): "Sventurata Sidon!"
    • No. 22. Aria (Arbace): "Se colà ne 'fati è scritto"
  • Scene 6
    • No. 23. Recitative (high priest, Idomeneo): "Vogli intorno lo sguarda, oh sire"
    • No. 24. Choir (high priest, choir): "Oh voto tremendo!"
  • Scenes 7–8
    • No. 25. March
    • No. 26. Cavatine with choir (Idomeneo, priest): "Accogli, oh re del mar"
    • Choir: "Stupenda vittoria!"
    • Recitative (Idomeneo, Arbace): "Qual risuona qui intorno"
  • Scenes 9–10
    • No. 27. Recitative (Idamante, Idomeneo, Ilia, high priest, Elettra): "Padre, mio ​​caro padre"
    • No. 28a. The voice: "Idomeneo cessi esser re"
    • or No. 28b. The voice: "A Idomeneo perdona"
    • No. 29. Recitative (Idomeneo, Idamante, Ilia, Arbace, Elettra): "Oh ciel pietoso!"
  • Last scene
    • No. 30. Recitative (Idomeneo): "Popoli, a voi l'ultima legge"
    • No. 31. Choir: "Scenda Amor, scenda Imeneo"
    • No. 32.Ballet


Idomeneo is Mozart's great choral opera. On the one hand, the opera is still in the baroque tradition of the opera seria with its extensive recitatives and great affects , on the other hand, Mozart and his librettist Varesco are already breaking this traditional form in many ways. According to the latest research results of the Austrian conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt , who staged Idomeneo himself for the first time in July 2008 as part of the Styriarte Festival, this opera is one that was created under the influence of Mozart's trip to Paris and the Mannheim orchestra in Munich pure tragedy lyrique , but in Italian. The fact that action and reflection, which in the conventional opera seria were divided into simple recitatives and arias, but in the Idomeneo were often brought into a closed, consistently motivating line, which continues in its own legal consistency (to be studied in the opening scene), is characteristic the tragédie lyrique, as well as the high proportion of choir and ballet scenes.

The 66-year-old crowd favorite Anton Raaff was planned for the main role, who apart from virtuoso runs had little to offer. Mozart therefore composed many “sliced ​​noodles” for him, as he himself called the coloratura . The role of Idamante was originally composed for a castrato , later it was often cast with a tenor and is now mostly sung by a mezzo-soprano . The love duet Ilia - Idamante in the third act is also worth mentioning , as is the subsequent quartet .

The oracle at the end of the opera, which is sung by a bassist accompanied by deep brass instruments behind the stage, reveals Mozart's dramaturgical skill once again: Originally intended by the librettist as a long speech, the composer shortened the saying to one sentence, with the argument that the ghostly effect is lost if the audience has too long to think about where these sounds come from.

Leopold Mozart accused his son of writing too hard for the orchestra . In fact, the overture is already very virtuoso, in the opera there is an aria with concertante woodwinds (No. 11 Se il padre perdei ). Mozart knew, however, that the tension in a performance is always increased when the instrumentalists are challenged. In general, the score is characterized by an extremely differentiated and colorful orchestral setting.

Mozart also wrote magnificent ballet music for Idomeneo (KV 367).

For a planned re-performance in Vienna in 1786, Mozart wrote the Rondo with concert violin Non temer, amato bene (KV 490) for the role of Idamante - who has now been cast with a tenor . He replaced the original love duet between Ilia and Idamante S'io non moro with the newly written duet Spiegarti non poss'io (KV 489), which uses the same starting motif as the original duet, but is much shorter. Mozart also used part of the text of the post-composed aria Non temer for a concert aria for soprano, piano and orchestra (KV 505).

Work history


Anton Raaff , the first actor in Idomeneo, in an unknown role

The period in which the composer dealt with his Idomeneo, from late autumn 1780 to spring 1781, is described by his biographer Wolfgang Hildesheimer as one of the happiest periods in Mozart's life.

In 1780, the twenty-four-year-old Mozart was commissioned to write a “great opera” for the Munich Carnival in 1781, and probably began to set it in September 1780. The practical performance conditions in Munich were very good: When the Palatinate Elector Karl Theodor von der Pfalz (1724–1799) moved from Mannheim to Munich at the end of 1778 , he brought the theater troupe, singer ensemble and orchestra with him. Both the Mannheim orchestra, which Mozart had astonished about in a letter to his father Leopold , and Karl Theodor's ensemble of singers were world-famous. In addition, Mozart had already worked successfully with the Munich theater manager Joseph Anton von Seeau in 1774/75 for his opera buffa La finta giardiniera , his first opera in Munich.

The libretto was the reworking of the French tragedy ( Tragédie lyrique ) Idoménée by Antoine Danchet (1671-1748). This text had already been set to music by André Campra and the work was premiered in 1712. Mozart was probably allowed to choose the author of the Italian version of the libretto himself. The choice fell on Abate Giambattista Varesco (1735–1805), court chaplain in Salzburg, who is characterized in the Piper as “not an ingenious dramaturge, but a skilful verse maker”. Most of the recitatives were translated from French by Varesco, while he rewrote all of the arias and ensemble texts. When creating the libretto, Varesco was closely tied to a plan that had already been drawn up. Probably before Mozart's arrival in Munich on November 8, 1780, while Mozart was already busy composing, this had been negotiated in writing between Count Seeau and his father Leopold, who often represented the son in such correspondence. The common first scenario included both content and dramaturgical as well as musical guidelines - for example for the structure of the piece, the sequence of the individual numbers, the number of arias for each singer and the length of individual passages in the recitatives. Still in Salzburg, Leopold Mozart was able to follow the progress of Varesco's work well and probably also participate in it. On December 22nd, he wrote to his son:

“You want absolute 2 recits: abbreviated. So I had the Varesco hollowed out […]. We read it, we read it. "

Not only the creation of the libretto in Salzburg, but also the execution of the composition in Munich, Leopold tried to have a fatherly admonishing influence:

“I recommend that you think of your work not only for the musical, but also for the non-musical audience - you know there are 100 ignorant versus 10 true connoisseurs - so don't forget the so-called popular, the one with long ears tickles. "

Such well-intentioned advice still seems harmless, and the extent to which Mozart considered his father's requests for the Idomeneo can hardly be judged.

Mozart's correspondence with his father shows how much he cared about the dramatic quality of the book. His countless changes and requests for changes to the librettist, his cuts and rearrangements prove the musical-dramatic talent of the 25-year-old composer, who called the opera his best throughout his life.


Idomeneo , Salzburg Festival 2006

The premiere of the opera on January 29, 1781 in the Munich Residenztheater under the musical direction of Christian Cannabich with sets by Lorenzo and Joseph Quaglio and the choreography by Claude Legrand was a success. In addition to Anton Raaf in the title role, Vincenzo Del Prato (Idamante), Dorothea Wendling (Ilia), Elisabeth Wendling , Domenico De Panzacchi (Arbace) and Giovanni Vallesi (high priest) sang . Elector Karl Theodor is said to have said to Mozart: “You shouldn't think that there's something big in such a small head.” In the only surviving contemporary note in the Munich State, Scholarly and Mixed News , however, the composer's part was ignored :

“On the 29th month that deviated from it, the opera" ldomeneo "was performed for the first time in the local opera house. Constitution, music and translation - are the births of Salzburg. The decorations, including the view of the seaport and Neptune's temple, were masterpieces of our famous theater architect, Mr. Hofkammerrath Lorenz Quaglio. "

The work was soon played in many German theaters, but it did not help the composer for his career at the Salzburger Hof .

Since the bulky shell of the opera seria conventions easily obstructs the view (and hearing) of the grandiose music, posterity misunderstood the opera and Idomeneo was an insider tip among opera fans for a long time. If it was played, it was mostly in radical reworkings, as in the version by Richard Strauss and Lothar Wallerstein from 1931, in which not only the music but also the plot is completely changed.

In the last decades of the 20th century, however, with the renaissance of Handel and other baroque operas, the understanding of the form of the opera seria grew , and Idomeneo also regained the fame it deserved.

In September 2006 the Deutsche Oper Berlin canceled a production of Idomeneo out of fear of Islamic fundamentalists ( see also the Idomeneo controversy 2006 at the Deutsche Oper Berlin or Kirsten Harms ).


Idomeneo has appeared many times on phonograms. Operadis lists 58 recordings in the period from 1949 to 2009. Therefore, only those recordings that have been particularly distinguished in specialist journals, opera guides or the like or that are worth mentioning for other reasons are listed below.


Web links

Commons : Idomeneo, Rè di Creta  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Carl Dahlhaus : Idomeneo. In: Piper's Encyclopedia of Musical Theater . Volume 4: Works. Massine - Piccinni. Piper, Munich / Zurich 1991, ISBN 3-492-02414-9 , p. 293.
  2. Idomeneo : Score in the New Mozart Edition , p. 2.
  3. Idomeneo : Score in the New Mozart Edition , p. 3 f.
  4. ^ Idomeneo, Facsimile of the Autograph Score. Essay by Hans Joachim Kreutzer and a musicological introduction by Bruce Alan Brown. The Packard Humanities Institute, Los Altos California 2006, delivery: Bärenreiter, Kassel, ISBN 978-3-7618-1880-0 .
  5. Robert Münster: Idomeneo 1781-1981. Piper, Munich 1981, ISBN 3-492-02648-6 .
  6. January 29, 1781: "Idomeneo". In: L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia ..
  7. Program of the Municipal Music Association Gütersloh from April 2, 2006, p. 12. (PDF document; 341 kB)
  8. ^ Discography on Idomeneo at Operadis.
  9. a b c d e f g h Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In: Andreas Ommer: Directory of all complete opera recordings (= . Volume 20). Directmedia, Berlin 2005.
  10. a b c Idomeneo. In: Harenberg opera guide. 4th edition. Meyers Lexikonverlag, 2003, ISBN 3-411-76107-5 , pp. 564-566.
  11. a b c Idomeneo. In: Attila Csampai , Dietmar Holland : Opera guide. E-book. Rombach, Freiburg im Breisgau 2015, ISBN 978-3-7930-6025-3 , pp. 224-229.
  12. Mozart's Idomeneo. Recommended recordings from Gramophone magazine , accessed August 21, 2019.
  13. Jürgen Otten: A question of taste. Fabio Luisi conducts Mozart's “Idomeneo” in the version by Richard Strauss. In: Opernwelt , February 2008, p. 55.