Mozart (La) Clemenza di Tito
When Nicholas Hytner’s unmissable production was first seen and heard at the old Glyndebourne in 1991 it was praised in all quarters for its revelatory insights into the motivations of the characters and for its arresting décor (David Fielding)‚ offering a modern slant on the ancient world. Above all there was Hytner’s unerringly pointed direction of his principals‚ each of whom seems absolutely right for his or her role. In sum‚ the performance shows Glyndebourne at its absolute peak in terms of preparatory work and ensemble playing. Add Andrew Davis’s superbly taut and perceptive conducting and it’s no wonder that here you feel Tito to be very near the top of the Mozartian operatic canon‚ a very different opinion from that which was current for so many years.
At the heart of the performance on stage are Philip Langridge as the clement yet tormented Emperor of the title‚ acting – especially with his eyes – and singing with extreme eloquence‚ and Diana Montague’s equally committed account of Sesto’s part‚ a character so obviously torn‚ almost fatally‚ between his erotic love for Vitellia and his deep friendship for Tito. Montague also acts movingly with her eyes‚ and her singing is noble‚ warm and technically flawless. As the scheming Vitellia‚ Ashley Putnam somehow manages to enact both the character’s classical origins while suggesting a soapopera villainess. Vocally she is always willing‚ but sometimes the flesh is weak‚ particularly in the higher reaches of the role.
Martine Mahé keeps up the high standard with her urgently sung and acted Annio. So does Peter Rose as the upright and concerned Publio. Only Elzbieta Szmytka‚ as Servilia‚ seems to be operating on a more conventional level of operatic expression.
The LPO is on its best form. Robin Lough’s video direction is spot on. The sound balance is faultless. Even so‚ main credit for this arresting event goes to Hytner. One earnestly hopes he may someday find time from his Royal National Theatre duties to stage more operas.