A chance to revel in wonderful performances by two of Chicago’s best gifts to the international opera scene is reason enough to recommend Lyric Opera’s current production of Mozart’s 1871 post-Trojan War tale, Idomeneo. Tenor (and Evanston native) Matthew Polenzani is the agonized title character, the king of Crete, and soprano (and Chicago native) Janai Brugger is Ilia, the captive Trojan princess who has won the heart of his son, Prince Idamante. Another reason: the Lyric Opera chorus, which we haven’t seen enough of lately, is on glorious, full-throated display as a literal Greek chorus. And the Lyric Opera orchestra is back from its one-week strike, playing as if the only thing in the world that matters is Mozart’s delicious, buoyant music. Soprano Erin Wall—in a killer triple-wide gown—is the nasty competition for Idamante’s affection; mezzo-soprano Angela Brower is the prince, a role originally written for a castrato. Sir Andrew Davis conducts.
The plot centers on the human struggle to persevere in the face of inexplicably cruel forces—here in the form of the god Neptune demanding the ultimate parental sacrifice. Good eventually triumphs but, with two intermissions and the period penchant for repetition (18th-century audiences couldn’t punch up more music on their phones when it was over), the show’s nearly four hours long. The old-fashioned set on loan from the Met is effective in spite of its dominant element: a massive blank-eyed, door-mouthed face of Neptune, scary as your average Halloween mask. v