Mozart in maschera: the HKAPA’s “Idomeneo”, March 2021

idomeneo

The most notable thing about the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts’s current run of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera Idomeneo is that it is happening at all, a socially-distanced audience and performers all in masks (the medical rather than commedia dell’arte kind) being concessions to the situation.

It was a good choice of opera: performed rarely enough that it is likely to be new for much of the audience, yet—Mozart being Mozart—immediately accessible. Some passages carry echoes of Mozart’s later, better-known works, particularly Don Giovanni.

The story takes place in post-Trojan War Crete: although there is a happy ending (for everyone but Elettra—Electra, yes, that Electra, who here is the third wheel in a love triangle), this is opera seria, unleavened by any of the comedic touches that Mozart added into his later operas, whether technically comedies or not. The staging, fittingly, was an elegant but starkly-lit grey box of granite blocks, as if a modern architect had been asked to re-design Mycenae. The few props seemed to have been influenced by a Giorgio de Chirico-style aesthetic as were the fully-masked, faceless “alter-egos”  that mirrored the main characters.

Idomeneo has been called Mozart’s “great choral opera”: it is fitting, then, that the chorus arguably has the performance’s most memorable moments. Of the soloists, soprano Anna Zhang Jingdan stands out as Ilia of Troy; one can expect to hear more of her. The large ensemble was all smoothly led by Hsu Wei-en in the pit.

 

Idomeneo runs through 27 March 2021.

Peter Gordon is editor of the Asian Review of Books.