Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Milwaukee Opera Theatre/UWM: La Clemenza di Tito

Saturday evening, we went to the Zelazo Center on the UWM Campus for the joint production of Mozart’s opera, La Clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus). This late opera by Mozart is an opera seria in two acts composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to an Italian libretto by Caterino Mazzolà, after Pietro Metastasio. It was commissioned in order to celebrate the coronation of Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor, as King of Bohemia, and was first performed in Prague in the year 1791, and was the first Mozart opera to be performed in England, in 1806.

The story is built on some fragments from The Lives of the Caesars by the Roman writer Suetonius, and concerns the Emperor Titus Vespasian, who had inherited the crown of Rome from his father, Vespasian, who had deposed Vitellus during the Year of the Four Emperors.

Vitella (Nicole McCarty), daughter of Vitellus, has been in love with Tito, and had hoped to marry him and regain the crown her father had lost. “Tito” (sung by Emanuel Camacho) loves Queen Berenice of Jerusalem, but the Roman Senate will not countenance his marriage to her since she is a foreigner. Instead of coming back to Vitella, Tito determines that he will marry the virtuous Servilia (Megan McCarthy), as being the best and most deserving candidate. This enrages Vitella, who pushes her current lover, Sesto (Katie Gruell) to stage a coup and assassinate Tito.

Meanwhile, Servilla and her beau, Annio (Kaisa Hermann), make known to Tito that they love one another, although they declare that they will set aside their love for the good of Rome if Tito requires it. Instead, Tito releases Servilla to marry Annio, and declares that he himself will officiate at their wedding.

Imperial representatives come to Vitella to let her know that the Emperor has decided to marry her. She is struck with horror, but has no way to call Sesto back. As the act ends, word comes that the Capitol is on fire, there is fighting in the streets, and Tito has been killed.

When the second act begins, Sesto, aghast at his crimes, seeks out Vitella. Publio (Cameron Hendrickson) arrives with the news that Tito is alive: the blow struck by Sesto in the rioting instead struck a co-conspirator, Lentulo, who survived and named Sesto. Publio arrests Sento, and takes him away for trial by the Senate. Vittella worries that Sento will name her as the instigator of the plot. However, Sesto takes all the blame, even before the devastated Tito himself. Sesto is found guilty. The Senate passes a sentence of death, which Tito must ratify. In anger at his false friend, Tito at first affirms the sentence, then withdraws it.

Meanwhile, Vitella is having a crisis of conscience, represented by four “shadow Vitellas” representing her good and bad side, who argue the situation out. Finally, believing Sesto still condemned, she rushes to Tito and confesses herself. Though shocked by this revelation, he pardons Vitella, Sesto, and the other conspirators. The opera ends with a chorus in which the citizens praise Tito’s goodness and mercy.

We enjoyed this performance very much, for all that it was done on a bare stage. There were colorful costumes allusive to a rather late Mediterranean medieval milieu more than Classical Rome (Titus became emperor in AD 79--), with the exception of Tito’s outfit which seemed to have come from a production of Turandot.

The singing was uniformly very good. Mr. Camacho has a light tenor voice that rode easily above the choruses. The outstanding voice of the evening was that of Ms. Hermann as Annio: her strong, sweet  tones well suited the purity of the character. Acting was generally one-note, but that’s what the libretto calls for and was suffcient: Vitella scheming, Sesto hangdog, Tito, Annio, and Servilla various values of virtuous, etc.

The UWM Orchestra was conducted by maestro Jun Kim, and did a flawless job with Mozart’s score.

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Tags: opera

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