This London/Decca recording is simultaneously wonderful and horrible. I don't mean to sound like I'm an Anti-Pavarotti detractor/basher but this role never suited him and is purely an experimental project for him as a tenor. He had already sung in this opera earlier in his career in the 60's- in the minor role of Idamante, which can be found in a live recording (that opera features Gundula Janowitz and Richard Lewis as Idomeneo). Everyone who knows opera knows that Pavarotti is primarily an Italian lyric tenor whose strongest repertoire was bel canto - namely Verdi and Donizetti, but also Puccini. Pavarotti singing Mozart ? It's a huge mistake to buy this recording. The role has lyric qualities but one has to have enough Mozartian operatic experience to perfectly essay the role with success. Consequently such tenors as Anthony Ralph Johnson and even Placido Domingo (who sang numerous Mozart tenor roles very early in his career including Don Ottavio and Tamino) score better success as Idomeneo. For me, only Placido Domingo in the Deutsche Grammophone recording satisfies me as the right choice for Idomeneo. Pavarotti is only delivering his same old razzle-dazzle, showy vocal pyrotechnics. He's so self-consciously grand and affected that one can almost see him waving his signature white handkerchief. So, please look to other Idomeneos but not this one.
On the plus side, Edita Gruberova and Agnes Baltsa, both of whom are experienced Mozartian singers, deliver a splendid performance as Ilia and Idamante. Gruberova's light, lyric coloratura voice is well-placed and attuned to Mozart's music. Furthermore, her voice is dulcet in tone and pure, qualities which are essential to the Mozartian heroine. Gruberova may be wonderful, but I have myself heard better Ilias- that of Carol Vaness is outstanding and those of Arlene Auger and most recently Natalie Dessay. But kudos to Gruberova's wonderful performance. As for Anges Baltsa, she's remarkable. She never ceases to amaze me. She is the most flexible and versatile mezzo soprano in recorded history. In her recordings you'll find her singing excellent dramatic Princess Ebolis, Romeos from Gounod's Romeo et Juliette, Queen Elisabeth from Maria Stuarda, Dalilah in Saint-Saens' Samson among other roles. Here, she sings with amazing lung power and mezzo di voce, but also able to sing with decent coloratura. So, even if Pavarotti fails to impress, Gruberova and Baltsa (who have worked together before) make their usual great performance. As for the conductor and the orchestra's treatment of the score - honestly it could have been better. It's slow-paced, dull and lacking passion and fire.