LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Gluck: La clemenza di Tito
WORKS: La clemenza di Tito
PERFORMER: Rainer Trost, Laura Aikin, Raffaella Milanesi, Arantza Ezenarro, Valer Sabadus, Flavio Ferri-Benedetti; L’arte del mondo/Werner Ehrhardt
Metastasio’s La clemenza di Tito, the opera seria libretto written for Caldara in 1734, was reused more than 40 times. All opera-lovers know Mozart’s 1791 version (No. 39 on the list, the libretto in fact considerably overhauled). One other stands out: No. 17, Gluck’s for Naples (1752). It caused a sensation there; since its 1987 modern revival, it’s been deemed his first masterpiece, an opinion powerfully supported by this premiere recording.
It’s a work of astonishing inventiveness, tailored to tradition perhaps only in its lack of ‘numbers’ apart from the finale, and illuminated by startlingly character-specific accompanied recitatives and arias full of Gluck’s trademark ‘beautiful simplicity’. The notion that ten years later he willingly discredited his own earlier operatic experiments by launching his opera seria reform is a misunderstanding, clouding his full, truly revolutionary music-theatre achievement. In fact, this Tito and the late Iphigénie en Tauride are organically connected: Sesto’s Act II ‘Se mai senti spirarti’, a drama-inspired rethinking of aria form and an exquisitely poignant outpouring, served 27 years later to provide, in ‘O malheureuse Iphigénie!’, the emotional climax of that supreme Gluck masterpiece.
This new recording supplies an experience full-blooded in itself and vigorous in helping disperse Gluckian myths. The performance, perhaps short on brilliance for its leading roles, Sesto and Vitellia, is in most respects a model – uncut, stylistically attentive, and graced by Rainer Trost’s finely sung, movingly portrayed titular emperor. Max Loppert