Dramma per musica in three acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performed in Italian with German surtitles
After the end of the Trojan War, the people of Crete are awaiting the return of their ruler Idomeneo. Imprisoned, the Trojan captives are led by Princess Ilia, the daughter of the Trojan King Priam, killed in the war. Ilia is torn between conflicting feelings: on the one hand she wants to remain true to her father by feeling only a desire for revenge against the Greek, and on the other hand she senses a growing affection for Idamante, Idomeneo’s son. Her inner conflict is interrupted by Idamante, who gathers the people together to announce the release of Ilia and all the Trojans as a gesture of peace. At the same time, he declares his love for Ilia who, however, rejects him by pointing out the enmity of their fathers. The joyful mood of the united peoples ends abruptly when Arbace, the King’s confidant, brings the news that Idomeneo has been shipwrecked. In despair, Idamante rushes to the beach.
The grief at Idomeneo’s death affects not only Idamante: Electra also laments the loss of the ruler. She was hoping for him to intercede on her behalf in her wooing of Idamante. After the murder of her mother Clytemnestra and her mother’s lover Aegisthus by her brother Orestes, Electra came to Crete to win the prince as her husband. The idea that he could now give his heart to the Trojan Ilia is almost driving her insane.
Contrary to Arbace’s report, Idomeneo has not perished in the storm at sea but was able to persuade Neptune to accept a vow from him: his life for that of the first person he meets on land. However, hardly has Idomeneo stepped on the beach when he regrets his rash vow because the first person he encounters is Idamante. While Idamante is overjoyed to find that the father he thought to be dead is very much alive, Idomeneo forbids him to have any contact with him. Idamante is left behind distraught on the beach.
In despair, Idomeneo turns to Arbace who has a solution: Idamante should leave the island with Electra to protect him against Neptune’s vengeance. No-one must know about the fatal vow. Unaware of the recently decided union of the Prince and Electra, Ilia hurries to Idomeneo: she is now ready to accept him as her new father.
Electra has received the news of her departure with Idamante and takes her farewell of Crete and its people. The separation of Idomeneo and Idamante is far more difficult. A sudden storm frustrates their departure and an enormous sea monster threatens the island. When the people call for the guilty person who has offended the gods, Idomeneo discloses Neptune’s demand but conceals the fact that the sacrifice he is required to offer is Idamante.
Ilia meanwhile admits her love for Idamante. When Idamante leaves to fight the sea monster, Ilia reveals her feelings to him. The happiness of the young couple is brief: the death and destruction caused by the monster throw the people into uproar. Led by the high priest, they call for the required sacrifice to be made. Idomeneo now for the first time reveals the name of the chosen victim. Despite the general dismay, the killing of Idamante is supposed to be carried out.
While preparations for the sacrifice are made, cries of victory are heard in the distance: Idamante has defeated the sea monster. However, Idomeneo is aware that the execution has to be enforced. Arriving from his battle with the monster Idamante is ready to die for the good of his people. At this moment, Ilia interrupts the ceremony and offers herself as the sacrifice. But a different decision is taken: Idamante will rule from now on with Ilia as his wife, Idomeneo will abdicate as King. Furious about this, Electra drives herself into a rage. The people crown its new ruling couple.