One of two major works that he is directing as part of English Touring Opera’s spring tour, James Conway’s Idomeneo is a definite success.
Founded on designs by Frankie Bradshaw that flaunt a rich Mediterranean colour scheme and suggest architectural grandeur – Mozart’s opera is set in ancient Crete – the production is also appealingly lit by Rory Beaton.
Equally, Conway’s staging is consistently clear and effective, focusing on the central relationships that define the plot in which the legendary king of the title has taken a fatal vow and then foolishly attempts to evade the consequences.
Christopher Turner charges him with guilt and pained irresolution, his firm tenor lasting the arduous course of a role with many dramatic high points. Catherine Carby draws a sentient portrayal of his son and (nearly) sacrifice, Idamante. Russian-born soprano Galina Averina suggests the determination as well as the vulnerability of the Trojan Princess Ilia.
Paula Sides’ Elettra is dauntingly angry, rising to a fiery whirlwind of fury in her final aria. John-Colyn Gyeantey sketches in the secondary roles of Idomeneo’s adviser Arbace and the High Priest, while Ed Hawkins provides supernatural grandeur as the voice of Neptune’s oracle.
Thus far this season, ETO’s orchestra and chorus have both been on excellent form, the latter alert and precise in its numerous interventions as Trojan prisoners or Greek populace. Mozart’s score bristles with instrumental solos, vividly played on this occasion, with Jonathan Peter Kenny’s pacy conducting maintaining a taut dramatic trajectory.