ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: La Clemenza di Tito
PERFORMER: Kurt Streit, Karina Gauvin, Julie Fuchs, Kate Lindsey, Julie Boulianne, Robert Gleadow; Ensemble Aedes/Mathieu Romano; Le Cercle de l’Harmonie/Jérémie Rhorer
CATALOGUE NO: ALPHA 270
Mozart’s penultimate opera has had a bad press. It was supposedly written in 18 days for the coronation of Leopold II, and so you can either take it as proof of Mozart’s genius, as did his first biographer Niemetschek, or as a below-par rush job. I incline towards the former, though its traditional opera seria features create challenges for the performers which are not easily overcome.
This live recording was made in 2014 at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, and so what we gain in atmosphere we loose a little in terms of the balance and clarity of sound. The orchestra is spirited, it supports the crowd scenes well (Tito’s entry with the chorus in Act II), but the rhythmic details can be blurred (Overture) and the ensemble ragged (the end of the opera). The inventive continuo playing illuminates and even instigates the drama, but in some of the recitatives there seems to be an attention-seeking solo recital occurring in the background. The singers are all experienced Mozartians: Kurt Streit brings lyricism and dignity to the title role; Karina Gauvin has the vocal range and dark timbre for Vitella, and is one of the few to attempt embellishments; and Kate Lindsey is a fine Sesto who excels in the set-piece aria ‘Parto, parto’, and elsewhere. This is an enjoyable recording in the French performance mould, but it lacks the fierceness of drama found in some other versions (for example, the 1977 Philips recording by Colin Davis with the remarkable cast of Janet Baker, Lucia Popp and Yvonne Minton).