La Clemenza di Tito - Bayerische Staatsoper, München

Xl_helmutclemenza © Bayerische Staatsoper

Emperor Titus was quite an impressive historical figure. During the reign of his father Emperor Vespasian, he occupied several position in the Roman administration and army. He won the Jewish war, conquered and destroyed Jerusalem and the big Temple. With the proceeds of this crusade, he built the Coliseum in Rome and acquired a frightening reputation within roman society : people were insecured with the total change, once he followed his father as Emperor at the age of forty. He dedicated his ruling and life to clemency, grace, mercy and generosity. He was not a beauty, rather small and bold, but intelligent and sophisticated. So far there is a lot of historical incorrectness in the libretto by Pietro Metastasio, for the plot of the opera, whereas the central deed - the amnesty of the conspirator - was actually happening in the reign of Emperor Augustus. 

Director Jan Bosse and his stage designer Stéphane Laimé, for this new production of Mozart's last opera, bring Rome to Munich, and transfer the opera in an roman amphitheater. The design of the audience hall is extended on the stage using columns, frizes and boxes.The splendid hall is destroyed at the end of act one. All is dismantled and a basic construction remains, bringing the story to modern times. Greed, power and war is part of all human history and the parameters of mercy and good doing are timeless. Costume designer Victoria Behr tries to follow this concept. Heavy baroque costumes and overdimensional wigs are abandoned, the actors become normal and real persons. English tenor Toby Spence is overall shining Emperor Tito. Elegantly dressed in a long white costum, an even longer white coat covered with glittering jewels, which make him unappropriate to the remaining environment, contradictive with the historical dedicatioin to clemency. His play is clumsy, his voice small, and his high notes are pressed and undifferentiated. Kristina Opolais has to fight with the malices of the stage design - and his overdimensional dress. In addition, her voice transforms to a dramatic soprano, with a tendancy to sharp and acute high notes. 

Luckily, the new musical director of the Bavarian State Opera, Kyrill Petrenko, keeps the volume of his orchestra low, and conducts very sensibly, next to the singing.  Tara Erraught brings a lot of emotional and fine singing in her interpretation of Sesto, but her appearance is much counterproductive. Being small by stature, she is put in a poor costume, and is neglected by the direction. Hanna Elisabeth Müller as Servilla looks like a big and sweet candy which remains unpacked during the evening. Best performers are Angela Brower as Annio and Tareq Nazmi as Publio. The best moments are created by Kyrill Petrenko and his wonderful playing orchestra. During the overtures and intermezzi, the house is filled with this warm and always exhilerating Mozart sound. It is another opportunity for him to demonstrate his talents, and to conquer the hearts of the Munich audience. They thank him with a strong and long applause. 

Helmut Pitsch

La Clemenza di Tito at the Bayerische Staatsoper

Photo © Bayerische Staatsoper

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