by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Sung in Italian with projected English translations


Shipwrecked, he gets safely to shore only after promising Neptune to sacrifice the first person he sees—but it’s his son, Idamante. As Idomeneo agonizes over the catastrophe facing him, Idamante woos one princess, the lovely Ilia, and is madly pursued by another, the jealous Elettra. Through all their sorrows and joys, the constant is Mozart’s heavenly music—ravishing in its beauty, stirring in its eloquence, and reaching deeply into the soul of every character.

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Production owned by The Metropolitan Opera. All scenery, properties, and costumes constructed by The Metropolitan Opera Shops. This production was originally directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and premiered at The Metropolitan Opera on October 14, 1982.

Approximate Running Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes with 2 intermissions


Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

Ancient Crete, after the Trojan War

A hero of the Trojan War, King Idomeneo of Crete, is sailing home to be reunited with Idamante, his son. They have not seen each other since the war began many years before. When a storm endangers his ship, Idomeneo begs Neptune to let him land safely. Neptune agrees only when the king promises to sacrifice the first person he sees upon his return.

Ilia, daughter of Troy’s King Priam, is a captive in Crete. Having been nearly shipwrecked, she was saved by Idamante, whom she now loves. Also on the island is Idamante’s fiancée, princess Elettra (Electra) of Argos, who sought refuge after the murder of her mother, Clytemnestra.

Ilia knows that, in loving a Greek, she has betrayed her father and family. Still, she cannot bring herself to despise Idamante. He informs her that Crete’s Trojan prisoners will be given their freedom. Ilia is shocked to hear Idamante confess his love; she reminds him who is father is – and who hers was. Idamante answers that the gods compel him to love her. He orders that the Trojan prisoners be set free. Trojans and Cretans are rejoicing at the dawn of a new, peaceful era when Arbace, the king’s confidant, brings word that Idomeneo has drowned. Everyone departs in distress but Elettra, who is irate: with Idomeneo dead, Idamante will surely marry her rival.

Idomeneo’s sailors are heard from afar, begging the gods for mercy. The sea turns calm, and Idomeneo finally appears. He reflects on the tranquility of his surroundings, but is horrified at the fate awaiting his victim. When he encounters Idamante, only gradually does each discover the other’s identity. Overwhelmed by despair, Idomeneo rejects Idamante’s embrace and rushes away. The prince is left confused and distraught. Idomeneo is soon welcomed home, as the Cretans join in praising Neptune.

Arbace is shocked to learn of Idamante’s vow, and that Idamante must be the sacrifice. Advising the king to send his son away, Arbace also urges that the Cretans be told nothing of the vow. Idomeneo determines that Idamante will serve as Elettra’s escort for her voyage home to Argos. When Ilia appears, Idomeneo expresses his concern for her and offers friendship. Ilia feels that in Idomeneo she has found a new father. She leaves him to his thoughts, which have become a storm he compares to a raging sea.

Elettra is ecstatic at the thought that, once away from her rival, she will succeed in making Idamante hers. She joins the Cretans as they wish for a calm sea and gentle breezes for the couple’s journey. Idomeneo has just bidden his son and Elettra farewell when a terrible storm ensues and a monster emerges from the sea. Idomeneo cries to Neptune to take him, for he is the guilty one. He refuses to offer the god an innocent victim. The Cretans are terrified as they try to escape the monster.

In a moment of solitude, Ilia thinks of Idamante and asks the breezes to carry her love to him. She is agitated when the prince approaches, and stunned when he reveals his intention to fight the monster, even if it means his own death. At last Ilia confesses her love. When Idomeneo appears with Elettra, the king begs Idamante to leave Crete. Idamante vows to wander the world until death claims him; Ilia swears to follow; Idomeneo longs to die; and Elettra wonders when she will be avenged. Arbace informs Idomeneo that the Cretans are calling for him to speak to them. Arbace laments the dire situation that has befallen Crete. The high priest of Neptune tells Idomeneo of the devastation inflicted on the Cretans by the monster. Now Neptune must have what is rightfully his. The king reveals that the sacrificial victim will be his own son. The high priest and the people are horrified.

In the temple of Neptune, the prayers of Idomeneo and the priests are interrupted by cries of victory: Idamante has slain the monster. When the prince appears, he begs his father to fulfill the vow and declares himself unafraid to die. As the king is about to kill his son, Ilia offers herself to be sacrificed in Idamante’s place. Suddenly Neptune’s voice is heard, proclaiming the triumph of love: Idomeneo will abdicate and Idamante will rule, with Ilia as his consort. Exploding with rage and despair, Elettra calls on the Furies to end her agony in death. Idomeneo presents Idamante and Ilia to the people, and expresses his joy at their ascension to the throne. The Cretans ask the gods to bless the pair.