Mozart wrote his last opera seria for the coronation of the King of Bohemia only three months before his death in December 1791. Reinder Pols explains the background of an opera that was popular in its time and was only rediscovered in the late 20th century.
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Friendship and revenge, passion and politics – Mozart’s LA CLEMENZA DI TITO mixes powerful intrigue with musical splendour. La Monnaie’s 2013 production sets Emperor Tito’s moral conflict in a luxury hotel in the 1960s.
The ambience of a luxury hotel becomes the stage for grand drama in the 2013 production of LA CLEMENZA DI TITO from La Monnaie, which was fêted for the beauty of Ivo van Hove’s staging and his success in presenting a very touching human drama.
Vitellia, daughter of the previous emperor, is distraught because the new Roman emperor Tito Vespasiano (Titus) has not sought her hand in marriage. Out of revenge she urges her admirer Sesto to assassinate Tito and launch an attack on the Capitol. Sesto is torn between his love for Vitellia and his friendship for Tito, but reluctantly yields to Vitellia’s plan. The attack fails: Tito is unharmed, but the Capitol is set on fire. When Sesto is taken prisoner, he refuses to reveal Vitellia’s complicity and out of love for Vitellia shoulders all the responsibility himself. Tito is now faced with the heartrending choice between upholding the law and his friendship for Sesto. Can humanity and clemency win and will Tito choose forgiveness?
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s ultimate opera seria, composed only two months before his death in December 1791, was a commission to celebrate the coronation of Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia. In portraying Tito as humanist and benignant, Mozart as well as his commissioners expressed their ideal of an enlightened ruler to their new sovereign.
In 1982, Karl-Ernst and Ursel Herrmann staged a new production at La Monnaie of LA CLEMENZA DI TITO, demonstrating that this opera seria, which until then had remained in the shadow of Mozart's other great masterpieces, deserved a place in the firmament of the lyric repertoire. Some 30 years after this legendary production, La Monnaie entrusted the work to Ivo van Hove.
After COSÌ FAN TUTTE, then chief conductor Ludovic Morlot wielded the baton in another Mozart opera in La Monnaie’s 2013/14 season. A conversation about the place of LA CLEMENZA DI TITO in Mozart’s oeuvre, about the moral implications of the subject and about the need for ever-new versions of repertoire pieces.