WORKS: La clemenza di Tito
PERFORMER: Philip Langridge, Lucia Popp, Ruth Ziesak, Ann Murray, Delores Ziegler, László PolgárZurich Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
CATALOGUE NO: 4509 90857-2 DDD
Despite its late acceptance into the canon of Mozart’s operatic masterworks, Tito has not fared badly on disc. Versions by Davis, Böhm and Gardiner are all recommendable, even if none presents the recitativo semplice (probably composed by Mozart’s pupil, Süssmayr) in its entirety. Harnoncourt also cuts much of the recitative, and the reprise of the Act I March.
Emperor Leopold II, whom the opera glorifies (it was first performed at one of his coronations in the last year of Mozart’s life), might have been slightly alarmed by the impetuousness, even brutishness, with which Harnoncourt tackles some of the numbers; but apart from muffing the arresting elision between Vitellia’s show-stopping ‘Non più di fiori vaghe catene’ and the Act II finale, and a slightly laissez-faire attitude to the finales (no sense of catastrophe at the end of Act I nor the necessary joyous intoxication at the end of the opera), his is a model reading, with tempi beautifully judged and textures wonderfully transparent.
He’s blessed too with probably the best all-round cast so far, led by Lucia Popp’s eloquent Vitellia (her last recording), Philip Langridge’s intense Tito and Ann Murray’s commanding Sesto. Much recommended. Antony Bye