Campra's Idomenee (based on the same story as Mozart's Idomeneo) was first staged in 1712. Campra significantly reworked the score for the 1731 revival, and it is this second version of the opera that we have now in CD´s ">
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Campra's Idomenee (based on the same story as Mozart's Idomeneo) the fifth of Campras eight tragédies lyriques,
Mozarts librettist, Varesco, based his libretto on the one by Danchet for the opéra séria Idomeneo. Danchets libretto was inspired by Crebillons tragedy of the same name premiered at the Comédie Française in 1705.
Idoménée, king of Crete, is fated to sacrifice his son, Idamante, to fulfil a vow made to Neptune in return for safe passage during a storm.
The opera follows the traditional tragedie-lyrique pattern having five acts and a prologue. But under Campra's pen (I mean, quill), the formalities of the genre are transformed into a genuine drama. The comparison between the 1712 and 1731 versions of the opera confirms Campra's intention to produce an emotionally realistic drama: thesecond version eliminated several minor characters and streamlined the plot thus achieving a better dramatic effect. Even the prologue serves not as a usual pastoral panegyric, but as a symbolic root of the human drama that follows - in the prologue, the goddess of love, Venus plots with the god of winds, Eole, to send a terrible storm on the ships of Idomenee returning home to Crete from their Trojan victories. This storm was, of course, the cause of Idomenee's terrible vow - in return for safe passage, he vowed to sacrifice the first person he sees ashore. I don't mean to claim that Campra's Idomenee is a realistic drama in the modern sense of the word, but parts of it are quite gripping.
For example, the meeting of Idomenee and his son Idamante (who happens to be the first person Idomenee sees upon his return) shows Campra's considerable skill in combining music and drama.
As another example, Idomenee's aria "O Neptune, recoy nos voeux" (a plea for mercy), which is echoed by the somewhat distant chorus, is very effective in conveying the cursed man's loneliness. The opera is written in a mixture of melodic recitative and arioso - a musical style that is very engaging if well used.
The arias are relatively few (except as divertissments), but the recitatives themselves are so melodic that the arias are barely needed. This is one of the main features of French baroque that I really like: recitative actually has an independent musical value.