Listening to this work so soon after hearing Zauberflote one is amazed anew that Mozart could write two such totally contrasted pieces within months of each other. Here, in the composer's last opera seria, we are in another world, one of formality tempered by the deep emotions engendered by love and jealousy. Instead of birdcatchers and Masonic rights we are dealing with historic figures in a supposedly historic context with down-to-earth feelings. For each Mozart finds precisely the appropriate music.
“This is unquestionably the most vital and authentic account of Idomeneo to date on disc. We have here what was given at the work's first performance in Munich plus, in appendices, what Mozart wanted, or was forced, to cut before that premiere and the alternative versions of certain passages, so that various combinations of the piece can be programmed by the listener. Gardiner's direct, dramatic conducting catches ideally the agony of Idomeneo's terrible predicament – forced to sacrifice his son because of an unwise row. This torment of the soul is also entirely conveyed by Anthony Rolfe Johnson in the title role to which Anne Sofie von Otter's moving Idamante is an apt foil. Sylvia McNair is a diaphanous, pure-voiced Ilia, Hillevi Martinpelto a properly fiery, sharp-edged Elettra.
The new production of Purcell's The Fairy Queen launched in 1995 by the English National Opera (ENO) was received with great enthusiasm by both the public and musical press. This atmospheric production was prepared by David Pountney, Robert Israel created the stage set, Dunya Ramicova was responsible for costume design and Quinny Sacks was responsible for the choreography of the dance roles as well as the numerous breathtaking ballet scenes. Under the musical direction of Nicholas Kok, the English National Orchestra played a baroque music which was as crystal clear as it was expressively infectious. Next to outstanding performers of the dancing roles such as Puck (Simon Rice) and the Indian boy (Arthur Pita), an entire armada of excellent singers was summoned up such as one seldom experiences together on the baroque opera stage. These included Yvonne Kenny as Titania, Thomas Randle as Oberon and Richard Van Allan as King Theseus. Jonathan Best, with his comic portrayal of the drunken poet, was loved by the audience and praised highly by the press, while other singers like Michael Chance, Mary Hegarthy, Janis Kelly, Marc Le Brocq and Christopher Ross all contributed their talents to produce an unusual musical theatre experience that has been masterfully preserved on this DVD.
In "Watching The English" anthropologist Kate Fox takes a revealing look at the quirks, habits and foibles of the English people. She puts the English national character under her anthropological microscope, and finds a strange and fascinating culture, governed by complex sets of unspoken rules and byzantine codes of behaviour. …