Notes and Editorial Reviews
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
LA CLEMENZA DI TITO
Opera seria in two acts; Sung in Italian
Sesto, a young patrician: Diana Montague
Vitellia, daughter of the deposed Emperor: Ashley Putnam
Annio, a young patrician: Martine Mahé
Tito, Emperor of Rome: Philip Langridge
Servilia, sister of Sesto: Elzbieta Szmytka
Publio, captain of the Patrician Guard: Peter Rose
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Andrew Davis, conductor
Nicholas Hytner, Stage Director
Robin Lough, Video Director
Recorded live from the Glyndebourne Festival Opera 1991
Picture format: NTSC 4:3
format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (All)
Menu Languages: English, German, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian
Running time: 143 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)
“The interplay of the characters has never been more purposefully presented, making nonsense of the old idea of this piece as stiff and static.” The Guardian
* La Clemenza di Tito was commissioned to celebrate the coronation of the Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia in 1791, and was written in eighteen days.
* Nicholas Hytner's elegant staging, performed in the original Italian language, was premiered during the Mozart Bicentenary season at Glyndebourne on 28 June 1991. An impressive cast is led by Philip Langridge (Tito), Ashley Putnam (Vitellia) and Diana Montague (Sesto).
* New secco recitatives, to replace those written by Mozart’s pupil Süssmayr, were commissioned by Glyndebourne from composer Stephen Oliver for this production. Andrew Davis conducts the LPO.
“[Langridge] is tremendously strong and impressive in the emotional twists and turns of the recitative.” The Times
“Central to the dramatic success of the piece is the fire-eating Vitellia of Ashley Putnam [who] seems to eat men alive.” The Guardian
La Clemenza di Tito
Andrew Davis, cond; Philip Langridge (
); Ashley Putnam (
); Diana Montague (
); Martine Mahé (
); Elzbieta Szmytka (
); Peter Rose (
); London Ph O/Glyndebourne Ch
ARTHAUS MUSIK 100 407 (143:00) Glyndebourne 1991
This 1991 Glyndebourne/BBC-TV production of
La Clemenza di Tito
was previously issued in 2001, by Image Entertainment. Presumably the rights have passed now to Arthaus Musik, but the recent death of Philip Langridge no doubt played a part in its reappearance, as well. Whatever the reason, this release provides another opportunity to become acquainted with one of the most distinguished versions of this opera available. It benefits singularly from a Glyndebourne commission to Stephen Oliver, who rewrote Süssmayr’s recitatives. The replacements are far superior to the originals, while remaining stylistically close to Mozart.
The cast is strong all around. Langridge is the most believable Tito on DVD, bringing a broad range of facial expression and an ease of physical movement to the part. As a singer, he possesses an attractive and well-supported tone, a gift for
, and a theatrical expressiveness that doesn’t stop when the arias begin. He’s not completely at ease with the fireworks of “Se all’impero, amici Dei,” but gets all the notes right. Ashley Putnam has the vocal depths as well as the heights for her role, including a protean theatricality that allows her to cajole, plead, command, hate, or love, and swiftly move among these emotions as Vitellia’s scheming demands. Her facial interpretation of the final rondo is unique in my experience, in that this most manipulative of Mozart’s characters, so keen in her observations of others, displays ironic amusement in her own self-inflected misery. Diana Montague and Martine Mahé are excellent, with Elzbieta Szmytka’s voice possessing a limpid delicacy that sets it off nicely from the others. Peter Rose’s dark, admirably focused bass makes an excellent blend in ensembles. “Se al volto mai ti senti” in particular really does sound like a well-anchored trio, rather than a duet with a bass drawn from the chorus. Davis conducts competently, if without especial spirit or insight.
The costuming is stylized Roman: textured breastplates and flowing skirts for Sesto, Annio, and the soldiers; togas for Tito and Publio; a stylized, alluring toga rather than a more typically feminine combination of stola and palla for Vitellia, presumably to emphasize her more assertive personality. Nicholas Hytner’s handling of movement and blocking is excellent, but the set design is unsubtle. There’s no misunderstanding the purpose behind the sloped floors, the crooked doorways, and the fragmented bits of Roman and 18th-century reconstructed Roman terracotta, paintings, etc, on the back wall: Tito’s Rome is askew, as though we couldn’t guess this from the libretto. Rather less comprehensible is the white UFO on stage with staircase that leads up to Tito’s private quarters. Are we to infer that the Roman leader’s inhuman mercy was a product of extraterrestrial origin?
The camerawork (filmed on stage, but not before a live audience) is excellent, with good establishing long shots, and plenty of angles to bring various configurations of performers into view. Sound is available in PCM stereo only, with a 4:3 picture format, and subtitles in English, German, Italian, French, and Spanish.
There are certainly other good versions of
La Clemenza di Tito
out there on DVD, though each has its failings. Ponnelle’s 1980 production (Deutsche Grammophon 617409) in the ruins of Rome is earthbound (no pun intended), but has the advantage of an exciting Troyanos as Sesto, and Neblett’s frenzied Vitellia. Harnoncourt/Salzburg 2003 (TDK OPCLETI) boasts an excellent cast, but K?usej’s Busby-Berkeley-homage production constantly gets in the way of the opera.
Cambreling’s conducting is the stuff that sleep, rather than dreams, are made of, but his Opéra National de Paris production (Kultur Video 942) has the advantage of a fascinating symbolist set by Christoph Prégardien, and the riveting Sesto of Troyanos. Overall, though, I’m inclined to suggest the Glyndebourne production for purchase, if you’re looking for one alone to buy. It has the best all-around cast, decent conducting, the new recitatives, and a decent production when it isn’t contemplating outer space.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Works on This Recording
La clemenza di Tito, K 621 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Diana Montague (Mezzo Soprano),
Ashley Putnam (Soprano),
Elzbieta Szmytka (Soprano),
Martine Mahé (Mezzo Soprano),
Philip Langridge (Tenor),
Peter Rose (Bass)
Sir Andrew Davis
London Philharmonic Orchestra,
Glyndebourne Festival Chorus
Written: 1791; Prague
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