Idomeneo, Glyndebourne Festival, Glyndebourne

Rattle and Sellars in fine harmony
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The Independent Culture

It is rare - not to say mind-blowing - to encounter an operatic staging in which the physicality is so completely locked into the spirit of the piece, where feelings almost too deep to express are mirrored in movement, colour, and light so at one with what you hear that for the duration of the evening you simply cannot imagine it any other way.

That is the stunning achievement of Simon Rattle, Peter Sellars, and Anish Kapoor, all for one and one for all at Glyndebourne where Mozart's Idomeneo - every last note of it (that has to be a first) looks, sounds, and feels as strange and beautiful and as new as it can ever have done.

Gods and monsters, love and war, sacrifice and redemption, the long day's journey from Dark Age conflict to the dawning of the age of Enlightenment - these are the themes that the 25-year-old Mozart grappled with in his extraordinary tragédie lyrique-cum-opera seria. Don't even try to understand how one so young can have delved so deep. There are harmonies here with a reach far beyond what can be found on the page of the score, and Simon Rattle and that fantastic band of musicians that is the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment repeatedly startle and seduce us by they themselves being startled and seduced. It's a case of never quite believing your ears.

Or your eyes. The director, Peter Sellars, and the designer, Anish Kapoor, meld like long-time collaborators. No intrusive egos. The rumour factory among Sellars detractors was predicting his Iraq war statement. Combats and confusion. They shouldn't try to second-guess him. He's too canny. Yes, there are combats and bloodied faces in the aftermath of a great war; yes, there are prisoners shackled in orange jumpsuits on their way to a compound that may be familiar to us from our newspapers. But what really preoccupies Sellars, just as it did Mozart and his librettist Giambattista Varesco back in 1781, is how we get from there to enlightenment; how we serve the make-love-not-war message. For Anish Kapoor (in his first opera design) the juxtaposition is a livid red orifice, overtly, oppressively sexual, opening in the defining final act to an airy lightness and the sun coming out of eclipse. His designs are not so much lit as suffused with colour by James F Ingalls.

Sellars then fills that space with a physical expression that he has been developing for the operatic stage for years now. His Baroque-inspired hand-jiving has developed into something involving the whole body. But it's the way he channels and focuses that body language, harnessing his performers' natural physicality to lend added strength and purpose to their gestures. And how those gestures resonate when they are intensified in the aria repeats. Or thrillingly deployed in the chorus to convey a calm or distressed seascape.

Then there's that other device he has used before - the dancing body-double. Sonja Kostich and Hans-Georg Lenhart shadow the young lovers, Ilia and Idamante, an embodiment of their innermost feelings. When the lustrous Christiane Oelze (Ilia) tells Idomeneo of the joy that her love for his son Idamante has brought her, Idomeneo is left alone, haunted by their "shadows" - the dancers - for he knows that, in sacrificing his own son, he will tear all their lives apart. It's an emotionally overwhelming moment.

And there are so many others. No single performer upsets the balance of this show, the spirit of ensemble that ennobles it. Philip Langridge may now wrestle with the strenuous vocal demands, but his commitment knows no bounds; Magdalena Kozena turns the corner from "promising" into a real artist with Idamante; and, as the overwrought outsider Elettra, the brilliant Anne Schwanewilms even manages to raise a smile as she succumbs to the serpents of Hades.

All this and the choreographer, Mark Morris, with a final flourish, a feisty pas de deux to usher in the Enlightenment. Plenty of that. Brave and dazzling.

To 26 July (01273 813813)

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