15 Jan 2006

MOZART: La clemenza di Tito

La clemenza di Tito. Opera seria in due atti (K. 621).

Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Libretto by Caterino Mazzolà based on a text by Pietro Metastasio.

First performance: 6 September 1791 at the National Theatre, Prague.


Tito Vespasiano, Imperatore di RomaTenor
Vitellia, figlia dell'Imperatore VitellioSoprano
Servilia, sorella di Sesto, amante d'AnnioSoprano
Sesto, amico di Tito, amante di VitelliaSoprano
Annio, amico di Sesto, amante di ServiliaSoprano
Publio, prefetto del pretorisBass

Time and Place: Rome during the reign of Titus Flavius Vespasianus (79-81 C.E.)


Act I

Vitellia, daughter of deposed emperor Vitellius, wants revenge against Tito (“Titus”) and stirs up Titus’ vacillating friend Sesto (“Sextus”), who is in love with her, to act against him. But when she hears word that Titus has sent Berenice, of whom she was jealous, back to Jerusalem, Vitellia tells Sextus to delay carrying out her wishes, hoping Titus will choose her (Vitellia) as his empress.

Titus, however, decides to choose Sextus’ sister Servilia to be his empress, and orders Annio (“Annius,” Sextus’ friend) to bear the message to Servilia. Since Annius and Servilia, unbeknownst to Titus, are in love, this news is very unwelcome to both. Servilia decides to tell Titus the truth but also says that if Titus still insists on marrying her, she will obey. Titus thanks the gods for Servilia’s truthfulness and immediately forswears the idea of coming between her and Annius.

In the meantime, however, Vitellia has heard the news about Titus’ interest in Servilia and is again boiling with jealousy. She urges Sextus to go assassinate Titus. He agrees, singing one of the opera’s most famous arias, “Parto, parto.” Almost as soon as he leaves, Annius and the guard Publio (“Publius”) arrive to escort Vitellia to Titus, who has now chosen her as his empress. She is torn with feelings of guilt and worry over what she has sent Sextus to do.

Sextus, meanwhile, is at the Capitol wrestling with his conscience as he and his accomplices go about to burn it down. The other characters (except Titus) enter severally and react with horror to the burning Capitol. Sextus reenters and announces that he saw Titus slain, but Vitellia stops him from incriminating himself as the assassin.

Act II

Annius tells Sextus that Emperor Titus is in fact alive and has just been seen; in the smoke and chaos, Sextus mistook another for Titus. Soon Publius arrives to arrest Sextus, bearing the news that it was one of Sextus’ co-conspirators who dressed himself in Titus’ robes and was stabbed, though not mortally, by Sextus. The Senate tries Sextus as Titus waits impatiently, sure that his friend will be exonerated; but the Senate finds him guilty, and an anguished Titus must sign Sextus’ death sentence.

He decides to send for Sextus first, attempting to obtain further details about the plot. Sextus takes all the guilt on himself and says he deserves death, so Titus tells him he shall have it and sends him away. But after an extended internal struggle, Titus tears up the execution warrant for Sextus and determines that, if the world wishes to accuse him (Titus) of anything, it can charge him with showing too much mercy rather than with having a revengeful heart.

Vitellia at this time is torn by guilt and decides to confess all to Titus, giving up her hopes of empire in the well-known rondo “Non più di fiori.” In the ampitheater, the condemned (including Sextus) are waiting to be thrown to the wild beasts. Titus is about to show mercy when Vitellia offers her confession as the instigator of Sextus’ plot. Though shocked, the emperor includes her in the general clemency he offers. The opera concludes with all the subjects praising the extreme generosity of Titus, while he himself asks that the gods cut short his days when he ceases to care for the good of Rome.

[Source: Wikipedia]

Click here for the complete libretto.