La Clemenza di Tito, Opera by W. A. Mozart
Historians often debate just why Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote La clemenza di Tito. He had to interrupt his work on The Magic Flute and compose to what would today be viewed as a quite impossible schedule. But he was paid handsomely for his troubles and no doubt believed that creating an opera that would be performed at the Coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold II, as King of Bohemia would set the seal on the relationship he had enjoyed with Prague ever since the success of The Marriage of Figaro.
The central message of The Clemency of Titus was also vitally important to the Emperor: he wanted to show that absolute monarchy could be munificent at a time when Europe was convulsing in the wake of the political tremors set off by the French Revolution.
Together with Caterino Mazzolà, Mozart breathed new life into Pietro Metastasio’s libretto, a story that had already been set to music several times during the eighteenth century. In Ancient Rome, Tito, by rejecting Vitellia, has seemingly sown the seeds of his own downfall. Vitellia, hellbent on revenge, convinces Sesto, despite him being Tito’s friend, to assassinate the Emperor. News that Tito has decided to make Vitellia his Empress after all fails to reach Sesto as he sets about torching the imperial capital.
Premiered on 6 September 1791 at the Estates Theatre in Prague, and ready to enthral audiences at the Wiener Staatsoper, The Clemency of Titus is Mozart at his most mature. It is possessed of music of astonishing light and shade, not to mention, as Rome burns to the ground, one of the most thrilling cliffhangers in opera.
Conductor: Ádám Fischer
Stage Direction: Jürgen Flimm
Staging: George Tsypin
Lighting designer: Wolfgang Goebbel
Costumes: Birgit Hutter
Main characters and roles:
- Tito (Titus), Emperor of Rome (tenor): Benjamin Bruns
- Sesto (Sextus), Titus' friend, in love with Vitellia (mezzo-soprano): Margarita Gritskova
- Vitellia, daughter of the previous Emperor Vitellius (soprano): Véronique Gens
- Servilia, sister of Sextus, in love with Annio (soprano): Hila Fahima
- Annio (Annius), Sextus' friend, in love with Servilia (male soprano)
- Publio (Publius), Guard Commander (bass)