Music by

André Campra

Text by

Antoine Danchet

The same source material that later inspired Mozart’s Italian opera seria »Idomeneo« – here, as a French tragédie lyrique. Neptune, the sea god, only agrees to let King Idoménée survive a storm unscathed when the king promises to show his gratitude by sacrificing the first person he encounters on his native shores. When that victim-to-be turns out to be his own son Idamante, Idoménée finds himself in an irreconcilable conflict between his paternal feelings, his duties as a monarch and his religious obligations.

The whirlwind of divine complications consumes not only father and son, king and prince, but also the rivalling princesses Ilione and Électre. Following the conventions of the tragédie lyrique genre, the work’s scope extends beyond human passions. The gods Venus and Neptune, thirsty for vengeance, also deliver impressive performances and bring their victims – unlike in Mozart’s version – to a tragic end. With André Campra, a composer who is largely unknown in Germany takes the spotlight in the BAROCKTAGE 2021. Born in southern France, Campra was active in Paris starting in the 1690s and made a name for himself in the final years of Louis XIV’s reign with around fifteen operas, which were very successful in their day. »Idoménée« shines with immense formal versatility, encompassing traditionally declaimed recitatives, various types of arias and instrumental numbers, and ballet interludes, giving a fantastic glimpse of the tragédie lyrique genre as it existed in the period between its creation by Jean-Baptiste Lully and its reform by Jean-Philippe Rameau.




The Trojan War is over, but the gods are still not satisfied. Venus, who was on the side of the defeated Trojans, demands that Aeolus, the god of wind, help her to take vengeance against the Greeks. He is to set the wind deities against the ship of the Cretan King Idoménée to foil his return. Aeolus obeys.

Idoménée’s arrival is awaited at the royal palace in Crete. In the meantime, the Trojan princess Ilione struggles with her conflicting emotions: she once had to fend off Idoménée’s approaches before being dragged away from her homeland as a prisoner. However, when her boat got caught in distress at sea and was saved by Idoménée’s son Prince Idamante, she fell in love with him, something that her pride should forbid. She does not expect her love to be returned, especially in light of the fact that the Princess Électre is also present. 
Idamante informs her that to celebrate the joyous occasion of Idoménée’s return all Trojan prisoners would be released. In addition, he admits his love for her, which she rejects in shock. The unified Cretans and Trojans sing a hymn to the power of freedom and love. An abrupt ending is put to the celebrations by Idamante’s confidant Arbas, who brings news that Idoménée’s ship has sunk in a storm. Électre is furious, for she fears that without Idoménée’s advocacy Idamante will prefer the foreign princess, in her eyes a slave.

On shore, Neptune calms the troubled waves so that Idoménée, whose ship has survived the storm intact, can disembark. Neptune reminds the king of the price for being rescued, which Idoménée then reports to his faithful friend Arcas: in return for being saved, Idoménée has promised to sacrifice the first person he encounters on the beach at home. 
Idamante comes along the beach in mourning, but is initially not recognized by Idoménée after his long absence. It is only when he asks Idamante about the reason for his mourning that Idoménée realize that it is his own son standing before him. He flees in horror, leaving Idamante fully perplexed.
Électre asks Venus to help her in her helpless situation. Venus awakens the jealously that will motivate Idoménée to act against his son.

Arcas advises Idoménée to dispatch Idamante as Électre’s escort on her way home to Argos, for there he will be safe from the vengeance of the gods. In the subsequent conversation, Idoménée discovers from Ilione’s reaction that she is in love with Idamante, which triggers a memory of his rejection and thus his jealousy. He struggles to control himself.  
Électre looks forward to her departure. When she wants to board the ship with Idamante, a new storm suddenly brews up. Proteus announces that a sea monster will hinder departure and wreak devastation everywhere. But Idoménée would prefer to offer himself as a sacrifice in place of his son.

After being rejected by Illione, Idamante wants to seek death in the struggle with the monster. To prevent him, Ilione admits her hidden love. At the same time, he warns him that his father is his own rival. 
Idoménée prays with the priests to Neptune to forgo his anger without a sacrifice. Arcas brings the news that Idamante was able to defeat the monster. Idoménée sees this as a sign that Neptune’s fury has been quenched, and promises to abdicate in the name of his son.

Électre promises to commit gruesome revenge against Idamante, for he will now be crowned together with Ilione. 
Before the collected people, Idoménée refuses his rule and his love for Ilione and celebrates the young ruling couple. But the coronation ceremony is interrupted by the appearance of the goddess of revenge Nemesis. She curses Idoménée with temporary madness, in which he kills his son. When he regains his reason, he wants to take own his life, but is held back: his punishment is to remain living.

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