Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
THE CLEMENCY OF TITUS
La Clemenza di Tito
Opera seria in two acts in the original Italian
Vitellia | Anna Mikołajczyk
Servilia | Paulina Horajska / Aleksandra Żakiewicz
Sesto | Elżbieta Wróblewska / Elwira Janasik
Annio | Jan Jakub Monowid / Małgorzata Kustosik
Publio | Piotr Nowacki / Dariusz Górski
Basset clarinet and basethorn solo | Francesco Spendolini
Fortepiano | Violetta Łabanow
Dancers | Beniamin Citkowski, Naomi Citriniti, Peter Džubera, Ieva Ievina, Heung Won Lee, Luana Pignato
The timeless lust for power
Perhaps the weight of the work was the reason why it did not immediately gain due recognition, the work that is today mentioned as one of the most outstanding achievements of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The opera series The Clemency of Titus, maintained in the Neapolitan convention, was marked on the day of its premiere. The king arrived at the event late for more than an hour (the opera was written on commission to celebrate the coronation of Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia), and one of the most influential courtiers, Count Zindendorf said after the premiere that the opera had been boring. It took operatic erudites, and music lovers several years to begin valuing the The Clemency of Titus. It was The Clemency of Titus that opened Mozart’s door to the scenes of Great Britain (1809). Did Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, writing it in the year of his death, consciously composed the opera, which in terms of workshop maturity, and the in-depth entry into the psyche and personalities of the main characters, is far more grown than the earlier works?
The opera was inspired by Domenico Guardascione, who was responsible for preparations to the celebrations of Leopold II’ coronation. It is significant that, due to its character, the emperor’s nickname was German Titus, hence the theme of the work was probably built on the Roman emperor’s motif, that is widely explored in the art (at the time of composing, the text of librettist – Pietro Metastasio had nearly 50 adaptations; Caterino Tommaso Mazzolà prepared it for Mozart). Mozart had two months to perform the contract, and the premiere took place three weeks after the coronation of the emperor. The Mozart’s brilliance as a composer may be verified by the fact, that at that time he was simultaneously composing The Magic Flute, while the variety and the weight of both works, firmly demonstrate the genius of its’ creator. The plot around conspiracy, assassination, Sesto’s infatuation, Vitelli’s greed, the wisdom of Titus…
And finally the true one – friendship. The versatility of the story about the title character’s clemency becomes a tool that gives a wide field to those who find in this history its timeless dimension. But it would not happen if Mozart himself did not use an interesting measure. Well, in the multitude of excellent arias, the most complex ones were dedicated to only two main characters. Thanks to this, the internal conflict of the characters grows, not only in the moral sense, but also in the dramaturgy of music. You do not need to look far for the analogy to the story of Titus with the times we live in. It is not surprising that Peter Sellars placed the scene of The Clemency of Titus in South Africa during the collapse of Apartheid for the needs of the Salzburg Festival. Carolyn Balkovetz, working with students at the American University of Cambridge (Massachusetts), placed the work’s plot in the presidential palace, filled with political and moral scandals. Thus, it’s time to answer the question, if the history or rather the history of power, is marked by betrayal? In the case of The Clemency of Titus, forgiveness comes to the fore. The good in the light of Mozart’s work takes on a versatile dimension, it provides comfort at the moments of required submission to the political pragmatism and rigid principles. Critics highlight the fact, that the Mozart’s last opera provides us with an immensity of sublime musical beauty and the idea of humanism, an inspiring human gesture. Love, friendship, betrayal, revenge and compassion. There are the five main pillars of this story. No wonder, that this opera is often considered to be the most mature work of the Master of Salzburg. Its composer moved away from the flowery language, so typical of Pietro Metastasio, and focused on a certain austerity, treating the orchestra economically, and putting the weight on the beauty of arias’ melody.
The newest premiere on the Warsaw Chamber Opera stage takes place 227 years after Prague pre-premiere and 212 from its first staging in Poland (Poznań, German-language version).
Rome, first century AD. Beautiful Vitellia, the former Roman Emperor’s daughter, cannot stand the indifference of the current Emperor Titus, who is in love with Berenice, the daughter of the King of Judea. She asks Sesto, her young admirer, to organize an assassination attempt on the Emperor. In the meantime, Servilia, Sesto’s sister, becomes a new love interest of Titus. Unfortunately, her heart already belongs to Annius, a friend of her brother. At the same time, Publio, the captain of the Praetorian guard, presents the list of conspirators to the Emperor. Tito explains his philosophy of forgiveness to Publio. Servilia reveals her relationship to the ruler. Titus appreciates her openness and frankness, thus he withdraws his proposal. The humiliated Vitellia forces Sesto to set fire to the Capitol and murder the Emperor. Immediately after his departure, she receives an unexpected message that Titus will ask her to marry him. Sesto is convinced that he himself murdered Titus.
It turned out that Sesto murdered mistakenly a stranger, and Titus is still alive. Annio puts a friend up to return to the Emperor’s court and to submit himself to Titus’ grace. Sesto is ready to accept the fate of the exile and to leave Rome. Annius, in fear of losing a friend, asks him to stay. However, Vitellia, fearing for her own safety, tries to persuade the conspirator to flee. The decision comes alone, when Publio arrests the suspect and puts him in front of the Emperor. When Titus requests detailed explanations, Sesto pleads guilty. The emperor must sign the decree, but he is torn up: he cannot become a tyrant and execute a friend. He cries out to the gods, saying that if they want a cruel ruler, they have to take away his human heart. Tragic news reach to Vitellia. Servilia and Annio beg Vitellia to help save Sesto. She realizes that she must confess her crime rather than accept the throne at the price of Sesto’s life. Tormented with remorse, decides to admit that she was the initiator of the attack. Surprisingly, Titus decides to pardon all the conspirators. The Roman people praise Tito for his kindness and ask the gods to grant him a long life.