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Soprano goes for broke in “Idomeneo”

Swaying precariously from side to side, sinking to her knees and finally collapsing altogether, Elza van den Heever puts on a virtuoso physical display to match her vocal fireworks as she stops the show near the end of Mozart’s “Idomeneo.”

It’s the final aria for the character of Elettra, who has just seen her hopes of marriage to the king’s son dashed. She’s in a rage that can aptly be described as “operatic,” and van den Heever savors every minute of it.

“It all comes very naturally,” the South African-born soprano said in an interview in her dressing room before a performance last week at the Metropolitan Opera. “It’s just this great gift Mozart gave to a soprano who’s wanting to be physically active onstage.”

Van den Heever said she worked out the elaborate movements for the aria with stage director David Kneuss, who oversaw this revival of the 1982 Jean-Pierre Ponnelle production.

“He gave me the rough sketch and let me fill in the rest,” she said. “He said: ‘I want you here on your knees, here you have to get up, here you bang on the altar, here you have to be on your knees so these guys can help you up, and here you have to faint and sort of have an epileptic attack at the end and you’ll be carried off by six guys.'”

All this while singing an aria full of dramatic explosions and coloratura calisthenics …

Mike Silverman, The Berkshire Eagle