Mozart: La clemenza di Tito

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Opus Arte
WORKS: La clemenza di Tito
PERFORMER: Susan Graham, Hannah Minutillo, Catherine Naglestad, Ekaterina Siurina, Roland Bracht, Christoph Prégardien; Chorus & Orchestra of Opéra National de Paris/Sylvain Cambreling; dir. Ursel & Karl-Ernst Herrmann (Paris, 2005)
With this live performance, of one of the last works that Mozart wrote, you get an hour extra of interviews with the stars, also with the two directors, and several other people involved in the enterprise. None of them seems to me to shed much light either on the opera itself, or on this peculiar take on it. We’re told that it has ‘three levels of interpretation’: Titus’s Rome, the late 18th century, and the present. I wouldn’t have guessed, and now I know I don’t


find the information helpful.

The set is mainly minimalist

(ie a chair), with occasional vistas

of a colonnade. Sesto, the chief male character apart from Titus himself, is dressed as an early Romantic hero might be, and most of the rest wear contemporary clothes. The style of acting is largely that of a melodramatic Hollywood movie of 1940s vintage, everyone going well over the top. Meanwhile this chiselled neo-classical score of Mozart’s, one of his least involving operas, proceeds on its undramatic way. All the recitative, which wasn’t written by Mozart (he didn’t have the time) is included, which means about a third of the opera’s length. The orchestra is a traditional one, tempos are broad.

The singing here is on a high level, especially Susan Graham’s overwrought Sesto. Christoph Pregardien does what he can with the absurd character of Titus, but however hard they all try, nothing really will breathe life into this marmoreal work, which has much beauty but refuses to stir.


Michael Tanner