In regard to Mozart operas, my top 5 are Le Nozze Di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutte, Die Zauberflote and Idomeneo. Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail I also like, if not as much as the other 5. La Clemenza Di Tito is one of the better Mozart operas, all of them are worth watching or hearing, though I am not the biggest fan of Zaide. Of the productions I've seen, the best ones for me are the Ponnelle film and the Drottningholm performance. The Phillip Langridge production is also very good. And so is this one, excellent even.
Perfect? No, but the flaws are very few, in fact just two and only one of them is major and the other is just a matter of preference. The latter is just that Tito's insanity portrayal in this production will take some getting to, here it is almost neurotic. I'll put it down to the stage director than to Michael Schade, who I think otherwise is splendid. The former applies to some of the choreography, especially with the scantily clad boys and the chorus. It did feel out of place, and in all I didn't have a clue as to what it was trying to tell me.
However, on a visual front, the production is very clever, the set is basically a three-storey see-through building, but what is so clever about it is how the staging and action is seen on different levels, which was a very interesting touch. The staging, choreography aside, is fine. The romantic scenes have the tasteful sensuality they should, and the burning of Rome sequence was superb to look at and thrillingly intense. The costumes are good too, some of the characters have many costume changes especially Vitellia but they do fit with the setting and they're not ugly either.
Musically, it is outstandingly good. The orchestral playing is full of style, and the music is played beautifully and powerfully. The 2 clarinet soloists in the two obbligato arias are particular worth of mention. Nikolaus Harnoncourt's conducting is really impressive. Some of the tempos are slow, but not dull like some of the Salzburg Le Nozze Di Figaro was and this way the nuances of the score come through. The chorus are excellent.
As is the singing. Michael Schade is a splendid Tito. He does what he can with what the stage direction throws at him, the insanity angle is not subtle but Schade still performs the heck out of it. But it was his voice that made the performance so good. Vocally he is the second best Tito on DVD after Langridge, he sings with a ringing tenor voice and has some exquisite soft singing. As does Vesselina Kasarova, though her fortissimo passages are just jaw-dropping too. Instead of making Sesto a wimp like some do, Kasarova, who is really a revelation here, gives a passionate, dramatic and very moving performance.
Elina Garanca is also really striking. Her Annio is very natural and expressive. Her singing is rich yet also very flexible, a joy to watch and hear, even if she went on to even better things. Dorothea Roschmann deserves much credit for making Vitellia's fiendishly challenging music seem easy, and she literally puts her blood and guts into the role to thrilling effect.
Luca Pisaroni sings perfectly as Publio, with a sonorous, handsome basso, and while his acting is not as exciting as his Leporello or Guglielmo it is well done. Barbara Bonney's singing is not quite as good as the rest, it is still beautiful and movingly sung, though some of her top lacks the crystalline quality she had when she was singing the likes of Sophie. Dramatically though, she is exquisite, really the standard of the vocals and acting are very high in this Clemenza.
Overall, excellent and recommended. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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