Nicola Lisle finds herself falling in love with a wonderful production of Idomeneo at Garsington Opera

It is 20 years since Garsington last staged Mozart’s Idomeneo, so a revival is perhaps long overdue.

Although not as well loved as Mozart’s other operas – as pointed out in the programme notes – this production does make a case for a more frequent airing, especially as director Tim Albery has created an exceptionally compelling piece with his clear, unfussy and decisive staging.

Set in the immediate aftermath of the Trojan War, the victorious King of Crete, Idomeneo, is faced with having to sacrifice his own son, Idamante, to the sea-god Neptune after surviving a storm at sea, and then brings devastation upon his people when he reneges on his promise.

Meanwhile, Idamante has fallen in love with Ilia, one of the Trojan prisoners, leaving his admirer, Elettra, heartbroken.

And so this becomes a tale of the conflict between duty and devotion, but also one of human compassion, selflessness and love.

These themes are reinforced by Hannah Clark’s simple but striking set, which consists of a seascape backcloth and two large containers that are seamlessly adapted for different uses throughout. They also help to give this ancient tale a contemporary resonance; as the Trojan captives clamber, exhausted and despairing, from one of the containers, the parallel with modern-day refugees makes for a poignant and powerful image.

Among an exceptionally strong cast, Toby Spence is wonderful in the title role, singing robustly and movingly portraying a father’s anguish as he faces losing his son through his own actions. Louise Alder and Caitlin Hulcup are hugely appealing as the young lovers, Ilia and Idamante, and their love duet in Act 3 is one of the most glorious moments in the entire opera, wonderfully joyful and life-affirming. Rebecca von Lipinski impresses, too, as the unfortunate Elettra, whose love for Idamante is cruelly unrequited.

The Garsington chorus, as ever, provides strong support, while the orchestra plays magnificently under the direction of Garsington newcomer Tobias Ringborg.

Nicola Lisle 5/5

* Until July 11. Box office: 01865 361636,