Listening to this work so soon after hearing Zauberflote one is amazed anew that Mozart could write two such totally contrasted pieces within months of each other. Here, in the composer's last opera seria, we are in another world, one of formality tempered by the deep emotions engendered by love and jealousy. Instead of birdcatchers and Masonic rights we are dealing with historic figures in a supposedly historic context with down-to-earth feelings. For each Mozart finds precisely the appropriate music.
There is a further contrast here. In the Flute reviewed on page 129, we hear modern instruments recorded in an empty hall, and sounding so. Here we are present at a live performance on period instruments. The difference inRead more dramatic electricity is most marked. As anyone who was present at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the evenings from which these discs derive, the sense of dedication and a taut drama unfolding was palpable. That has been carried over in the CDs. As with his Award-winning idomeneo (see page 44) Gardiner favours brisk rhythms, alert, prominent wind and brass, swift tempos. Yet in the great setpieces there is more than enough time for expressive phrasing and licence for the singers to use rubato when they wish. Above all there is an overriding sense of a true ensemble with chorus, orchestra and soloists in complete harmony.
Comparisons are hardly relevant when the whole approach here is so much lighter, more period-orientated than in the rival versions. They are all convincingly cast—the piece seems to draw the best from its interpreters—but none is superior, though one or other is in some respects the equal of the one assembled here. Schreier for Böhm (DG) is as affecting and, in Act 2, as mentally tormented as Rolfe Johnson, who completes a double with his other anguished ruler, Idomeneo. He makes a convincingly clement Emperor and one rightly amazed at his best friend's treachery—listen to the accompanied recitative near the beginning of Act 2 to judge how sympathetically he accents notes and words. His account of "Se all'impero", that properly trenchant exposition of Tito's credo, is technically assured. As in Idomeneo Rolfe Johnson is more than worthily partnered by Anne Sofie von Otter as Sextus. The rapport between them is heartening. Von Otter also scores strongly in accompanied recitative, the passage after Sextus has set the Capitol alight and becomes full of doubt and terror. Sextus's arias have had some splendid performances in previous sets, notably from Teresa Berganza on the Kertész (Decca) and Böhm versions, but nobody seems as fleet in her runs, so subtle in using them for emotional expression as von Otter. She is also a wonderful purveyor of the text's meaning. Her voice is nicely contrasted with the rather slimmer tones of Catherine Robbin as Annius, who is another Mozartian stylist of substance.
Julia Varady, who was Böhm's Vitellia, is even more enthralling here. She manages to be at once bitingly jealous, manipulative, sensual and in the end remorseful, her very individual soprano used to create a rounded, complex character. As with Rolfe Johnson and von Otter her treatment of dry recitative is arrestingly vital. Her reading culminates in an accomplished account of "Non piü di fiori", untroubled by its low-lying phrases. Sylvia McNair, singing with her customary sweetness as Servilia, sacrifices character to purity of tone; in a word her singing is bland. The admittedly dull role of Publio is not helped by Cornelius Hauptmann's woolly singing.
Gardiner cuts much more recitative than Sir Colin Davis (Philips) who offers the fullest text recorded. As it isn't by Mozart that's of small consequence except where we are here thrust too suddenly into the trio "Quello di Tito" in Act 2. The Monteverdi Choir offers just the right urgency and compact sound. One or two slightly ill-kempt passages apart, the playing is as disciplined as it is attentive to keenness of phrasing. The obbligato players are all masterly. We have execution on period instruments that surely must banish all doubts about their use in Mozart. For that reason alone this would now be my recommended version, but to compound pleasure and satisfaction, Mozart's music-drama, once considered marmoreal, here sounds worthy to stand alongside Idomeneo in the opera seria canon. It should win even more friends for the piece.
La clemenza di Tito, K 621by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Performer:
Anthony Rolfe Johnson (Tenor),
Julia Varády (Soprano),
Catherine Robbin (Mezzo Soprano),
Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano),
Sylvia McNair (Soprano),
Cornelius Hauptmann (Bass)
John Eliot Gardiner
English Baroque Soloists,
Period: Classical Written: 1791; Prague Date of Recording: 06/1990 Venue: Live Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, England Length: 118 Minutes 4 Secs. Language: Italian
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
An Exciting and Vivid presentation.April 23, 2014By Joseph Erdeljac (West Chester, PA)See All My Reviews"Here we have a Mozart opera performance that I feel Mozart would have loved. Every singer is completely up to their role and in wonderful voice. Interesting being that it is a recording of a live performance the quality is excellent. Aside from some stage noises one would think it a studio recording. Being a live performance adds an excitement to every note. As we all know live opera is the best as everyone is one their toes."Report Abuse
Run! Don't walk!November 21, 2012By Dr. Stephen Schoeman (Westfield, NJ)See All My Reviews"Run! Don't walk! Buy the CD set of Mozart's La Clemenza Di Tito. This rarely performed opera compared to Don Giovani or The Marriage of Figaro has about the best opera music the great composer wrote. Indeed perhaps his very best music! Just to hear those arias each accompanied by the clarinet and the basset horn is enough to make not only your day but your entire week if not year. The choral music is simply heavenly. But more than even this, and this is an enormous amount, are the great themes of this opera. Friendship. Loyalty. Humanity. Understanding. What a good leader must do-not win respect because of fear but because of love. And, of course, that greatest of themes. Clemency or forgiveness. The Emperor Titus forgives those who attempted to kill him! The opera ends on the most joyous of notes and I mean joyous with a special swelling of musical dramatic portraiture which will leave you spell bound and even breathless! And to think that Mozart composed this brilliant opera in 1791 when ill and when he also composed The Magic Flute, the best of the world's clarinet concertos, and most of the Requiem! From where did such gargantuan creativity come? Those extraordinary arias and duets which flow as does the Mississippi. Each one different. The next measure entirely different from the one before. Such an outpouring. Enough to make anyone questioning how positively great human beings can be to reconsider! There is no other opera or classical composer who did what Mozart did nor with such apparent ease! So run! Don't walk. Do yourself a very big favor and promptly buy the CD set! And do not listen to all the critics who find fault with this opera. It was not performed much for well over a century but now it appears to be having somewhat of a renaissance. How many of these critics are capable of writing even one measure of one of Mozart's arias in this opera? Let alone one note! Stephen Schoeman, Ph. D. Political Scientist"Report Abuse