Jan 6, 2006 12:02 am
Richard Strauss was asked to prepare a new version for the 150th anniversary of the first Munich performance of the then unknown Mozart opera Idomeneo.
The goal was to win Idomeneo back for the German stage.’ Lothar Wallerstein translated the libretto into German prose. The number scheme was discarded. The character Elettra was changed into Ismene, Neptune’s priestess who tries to prevent Idamante from marrying Illia, a Trojan slave girl. The High Priest was changed from tenor to bass. Idamante went from castrato to soprano. Arbace was changed from a bass to a baritone and his two arias were eliminated.
Strauss cut most of the recitatives, rescored or rewrote others. He composed two new arias based on Mozart material: ‘Auf Tiefen der Meeres’ after the chorus ‘Corriamo, fuggiamo’ and a quartet before the final chorus.
It was premiered at the Vienna Opera in 1931. The public loved it, the critics hated it. Alfred Einstein called it ‘a gross act of mutilation.’ Even Strauss himself confessed that ‘I will personally answer for my impiety to the divine Mozart if I ever get to heaven.’ However it did bring this wonderful opera out of obscurity and to the attention of the wider audience that it deserves.