CLEMENZA DI TITO, LA
"An exquisite, world-class Mozart"
Rarely has a Mozart opera seria leapt to life with such intensity and power as this "Clemenza di Tito" from the Zurich Opera. And much of its rousing, bounding spirit is due to Vesselina Kasarova, one of the greatest mezzos of our time, a larger-than-life artistic personality and supremely theatrical creature. As Sesto, both friend and betrayer of Emperor Titus, she clearly dominates the stage, infusing each expression and gesture, every note and coloratura with breathtaking vitality.
Kasarova is surrounded by so many high-caliber colleagues that the result is a feast for the ears and the eyes: some of Mozart's finest music performed by artists with exceptional voices and stage presence. As the scheming Vitellia, Eva Mei lets not only the ambitiousness of a proud princess but also the stinging humiliation of a wronged woman reverberate in her coloraturas. Jonas Kaufmann endows his sonorous Tito with a depth and reflectiveness. Liliana Nikiteanu's self-assured Annio, Malin Hartelius's comely Servilia – they too are on a par with their colleagues.
Director Jonathan Miller and Isabella Bywater, his set and costume designer, focus almost exclusively on the inner life of the characters, a concept reinforced by the subtle musical accompaniment of conductor Franz Welser-Möst. Holding the musical reins tautly when they must, freely when they can, he carries the vocal gestures into the music with ease and spirit.
Accelerating the brisk pacing are the succinct dialogues prepared specifically for this production. They replace the recitatives that Mozart would have written had he found the time: he wrote "La clemenza di Tito" in little more than 18 days in the summer of 1791 for the coronation of Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia. Composed while he was busy with "The Magic Flute," the "Requiem" and other projects, it was one of his last works. He died twelve weeks after the first performance.