Opera Scotland

Clemenza di Tito La Clemenza di Tito; The Clemency of Titus

Music
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (born Salzburg, 27 January 1756; died Vienna, 5 December 1791)

Text
Caterino Mazzolà.

Source
Libretto La clemenza di Tito (1734) by Pietro Metastasio, previously set by several composers.

Premières
First performance: Prague (National Theatre), 6 September 1791.
First UK performance: London (King’s Theatre, Haymarket), 27 March 1806.
First performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Athenaeum), 8 April 1938.
Scottish Opera première: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), 29 August 1991.

Background
Mozart was commissioned to produce a new opera for the coronation of the Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia. He was well liked in Prague, where Don Giovanni had been successfully premiered, and the engagement was also financially advantageous, though required at short notice. Metastasio’s text was radically shortened and adapted by Mazzolà so that a more modern form of opera than the traditional opera seria could be composed. Thus the work contains duets and trios, even some ensembles, in a manner completely foreign to Metastasio's original. A further modernisation in style is the format of the arias, most of which are brief and simple, without the opportunities for display traditional in opera seria. Exceptions to this are two of Sesto’s arias, one with clarinet obbligato, Vitellia’s final great rondo with basset-horn accompaniment, and Tito’s arias which, though short, require considerable coloratura technique. The first act finale seems remarkably modern, with offstage cries from the chorus as the burning of the Capitol causes panic. This is contrasted with the ominous silence that engulfs the scene as the characters consider the impact of the conspiracy.

Characters
Titus (Tito), Roman Emperor (tenor)
Vitellia, daughter of Vitellius, a previous, but deposed, Emperor (soprano)
Sextus (Sesto), a young Roman Patrician (mezzo-soprano)
Annius (Annio), another young Patrician, his friend (mezzo-soprano)
Servilia, sister of Sextus (soprano)
Publius, (Publio), Captain of the Praetorian Guard (bass)

Plot Summary
Titus is planning to marry Berenice, a Judaean princess, to the fury of Vitellia, who wished to become his empress herself. She persuades her lover Sextus to assassinate Titus, in spite of the friendship which has long existed between the two men. Servilia, who wishes to marry Annius, is upset when Titus changes his mind and decides to marry her instead. She explains the situation to Titus, who agrees to relinquish his claim. Vitellia is horrified to discover that she is to be empress after all, as she is too late to stop the assassination attempt. The plot misfires, and although the Capitol is set ablaze, the Emperor survives. The guilt of Sextus is discovered, and as he is about to be executed a conscience-stricken Vitellia confesses to being the main instigator. Titus pardons everyone involved.

RECORDINGS

DECCA (2 CDs) Sung in Italian Recorded 1967
Conductor: István Kertész
Vienna State Opera Orchestra
Maria Casula (Vitellia), Teresa Berganza (Sesto), Werner Krenn (Tito)

This recording was for several years the only one available, and it seems to have been undervalued since other versions appeared. Clearly it predates the authentic movement, but even so, the sense of drama that Kertesz instils is still very impressive, and most of the recitatives, which can sound clunky in the wrong hands, work quite effectively. Berganza is ideal as Sesto, and the roles of Servilia and Annio are superbly taken by Lucia Popp and Brigitte Fassbaender (who later sang Sesto very successfully in a number of cities, including Edinburgh). Krenn was also a regular in Scotland for some years, when Scottish Opera cast him as Don Ottavio and Jaquino.

DG (2 CDs) Sung in Italian Recorded 2005

Conductor: Charles Mackerras.
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Hillevi Martinpelto (Vitellia), Magdalena Kozena (Sesto), Rainer Trost (Tito).

Charles Mackerras produced a series of recordings of the mature Mozart operas based on concert performances given in the Usher Hall during various Edinburgh Festivals, of which this was the last. The common factor, apart from his genius as a Mozart conductor, is the presence of the SCO in glorious form. Of the singers, the stars are Magdalena Kozena as an appealing Sesto, Lisa Milne (Servilia), and Christine Rice (Annio). John Relyea is fine as Publio, but the Vitellia and Tito don’t project quite as much character as usual.

PHILIPS (2CDs) Sung in Italian Recorded 1976

Conductor: Colin Davis. Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Janet Baker (Vitellia), Yvonne Minton (Sesto), Stuart Burrows (Tito).

Covent Garden’s production of this piece was hugely successful at the time, with Janet Baker getting her teeth into an unpleasantly vicious portrayal of Vitellia, accompanied by Yvonne Minton as Sesto, and Robert Lloyd as Publio. Unaccountably, when the recording was made, the other three roles were cast with singers not involved in the production, and there is a slight cooling of the dramatic impact as a result. The production was taken on the company’s visit to La Scala the same year, and the revival that preceded that tour is available on the Gala label, conducted by John Pritchard, with Werner Hollweg as Tito and the original cast Servilia and Annio, performed beautifully by Teresa Cahill and Anne Howells.

The Cast

Annio
 Annius, friend of Sextus, in love with Servilia
Publio
 Publius, Captain of the Praetorian Guard
Servilia
 sister of Sextus, in love with Annius
Sesto
 Sextus, friend of Titus, in love with Vitellia
Tito
 Titus Vespasianus, Emperor of Rome
Vitellia
 daughter of the deposed Emperor, Vitellius

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