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University Professor Geoffrey Hill, at the Marsh Chapel Poetry Reading, Friday, April 18, 5:30 p.m.

Week of 11 April 2003· Vol. VI, No. 28

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Singin’ in the reign
Mozart’s Idomeneo showcases BU operatic talents

By Brian Fitzgerald

Amy Feather (CFA’03) is Ilia and Arturo Chacon Cruz (CFA’03) plays the title role in the BU Opera Institute and Chamber Orchestra production of Mozart’s Idomeneo. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky


Amy Feather (CFA’03) is Ilia and Arturo Chacon Cruz (CFA’03) plays the title role in the BU Opera Institute and Chamber Orchestra production of Mozart’s Idomeneo. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky


Almost every year in one form or another, the BU Opera Institute and Chamber Orchestra celebrate the genius of Mozart. They have taken advantage of the great 18th-century composer’s talent and accessibility in such recent opera productions as Le nozze di Figaro and Cosí fan tutte. Indeed, the Chamber Orchestra regularly gives concerts of various Mozart works. He is, according to the great conductor Sir Georg Solti, “the most human composer.” What music education would be complete without learning and performing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?

Still, his music is demanding, and the Opera Institute and Chamber Orchestra have chosen Mozart’s Idomeneo as their second opera of the season not just because they are enchanted by its brilliant score. Opera Institute director Sharon Daniels has been looking at Idomeneo for a long time, she says, but until now the circumstances were never quite right to tackle the epic drama. “There are a couple of principal roles that require a lot of stamina, and a hearty tenor,” she says. “The roles require a considerable amount of training.”

Daniels says that tenors Alan Schneider (CFA’03) and Arturo Chacon Cruz (CFA’03) have enough “heft” in their voices and enough stage experience to effectively play the lead role of Idomeneo. (The opera is performed with two casts of students alternating each performance.) Schneider won the 2002 Boston Lyric Opera Shrestian Career Award for Excellence, and Cruz was the 2002 winner of the Houston Grand Opera Award and a finalist in last year’s Metropolitan Opera Auditions for the New England region. Cruz is certainly no stranger to Mozart — he made his Carnegie Hall debut in March 2002 with the New England Symphonic Ensemble singing bass in Mozart’s Coronation Mass.

Audiences used to amusing Mozart operas will find a more solemn story, written in the old opera seria style. Idomeneo is set at the end of the Trojan War. Idomeneo, the king of Crete, is returning to Greece from Troy. On his way home, his ship sinks and he survives due only to the grace of the god Neptune. In return, Idomeneo agrees to sacrifice the first mortal he comes across. It is his own son, the prince Idamante, however, who rushes to him when he lands. After Idomeneo sends Idamante, played by tenors Givana Kasoulis (CFA’03) and Myna Yoshida (CFA’03), into exile to avoid sacrificing him, horrible tragedies beset the land. Idomeneo then offers to sacrifice himself for having defaulted on the bargain, and Idamante, wanting to save his people from doom, does the same, but Neptune intervenes and allows Idamante to survive with the condition that he take over his father’s throne.

Idomeneo is seen by many critics as a turning point in Mozart’s operatic career. Although keeping the opera solemn, he at times flouts the rules of conventional opera seria, making the stereotyped characters less rigid. For example, he has made slightly comical the character of Elettra, who loves Idamante and is furious that the prince has fallen in love with Ilia, a Trojan princess. Elettra, played by Georgia Pickett (CFA’03) and Sarah Long (CFA’03), is “one of Mozart’s raging soprano roles,” says Daniels. Mozart makes her so humorously belligerent that the audience cannot help but be amused.

In the end, the people of Crete sing and dance the praises of Idamante and Ilia, the new royal couple. Everyone celebrates except Elettra, whose consuming jealousy makes her long for her own death. Her final vocal blast at the gods and royals is capable of bringing down the house.

“ The score is challenging, but it’s some of Mozart’s most remarkably beautiful music,” says Daniels. “I think Idomeneo is ideal for the kind of talent we have at the Opera Institute this year.”


11 April 2003
Boston University
Office of University Relations