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Introduction and Key


What time Ierusalem that Cittie faire, Was sieg'd and sackt by great Vespasians heire   Canaan's Calamitie, Jerusalem's Misery ; The dolefull destruction of faire Ierusalem by Tytus, the Sonne of Vaspasian Emperour of Rome, in the yeare of Christ's Incarnation 74  (1598) Wherein is shewed the woonderfull miseries which God brought upon that Citty for sinne, being utterly over-throwne and destroyed, by Sword, pestilence and famine. 





La clemenza di Tito
(The Clemency of Titus)


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Based on a libretto by Metastasio, edited by Caterino Mazzolà


Titus Flavius Vespasianus

McMurdo, Don, 1930-2001. [Australian Opera performance of La clemenza di Tito (The clemency of Titus), January 1991] [picture]
Australian Opera performance of La clemenza di Tito, January 1991

Emergence and classification

La clemenza di Tito
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

La clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus), K. 621, is an opera seria written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It was in fact his very last opera, being started after the bulk of Die Zauberflöte was already written (though Mozart did not complete Die Zauberflöte until his return to Vienna after the Prague premiere of Tito) . Alleged by Mozart's earliest biographer Niemetschek to have been completed in just 18 days — in such haste that the simple recitatives were supplied by another, probably Mozart's pupil Süssmayr — Tito was commissioned for the coronation of Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia.

The opera was first performed on September 6, 1791 at the Estates Theatre in Prague.

It remained popular for many years after Mozart's death (Stivender, p. 502). But for a long time Mozart scholars regarded Tito as an inferior effort of the composer. Alfred Einstein in 1945 wrote that it was "customary to speak disparagingly of La clemenza di Tito and to dismiss it as the product of haste and fatigue," and he continues the disparagement to some extent by condemning the characters as puppets — e.g., "Tito is nothing but a mere puppet representing magnanimity" — and claiming that the opera seria was already a moribund form (Einstein, Mozart, pp. 408-11). However, in recent years the opera has undergone something of a reappraisal. Stanley Sadie considers it to show Mozart "responding with music of restraint, nobility and warmth to a new kind of stimulus" (New Grove Mozart, p. 164).

The opera is based on a libretto by Metastasio, edited into a more useful state by court poet Caterino Mazzolà, whom, unusually, Mozart credited for his revision in Mozart's own catalog of his compositions. The story is based on the life of Roman Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus, and was elaborated by Metastasio from some brief hints in the Lives of the Caesars by the Roman writer Suetonius.

Given the similarity of Mozart's score and plot with some aspects of La clemenza di Scipione by Johann Christian Bach, it is likely that Mozart knew and was influenced by the older composer's work to a certain extent.


In Act I, Vitellia, daughter of deposed emperor Vitellius, wants revenge against Titus and stirs up Titus' vacillating friend 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 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 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. The others lament Titus in a slow, mournful conclusion to Act I.

Act II begins with Annius telling 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 amphitheater, 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.

German Translation:

Title and persons

La clemenza di Tito KV 621 Opera seria into due atti
Tito Vespasanio (Titus), rulers of Rome, tenor
Vitellia, daughter of the previous king Vitellius, Sopran
Sesto, friend of the Titus, lover of the Vitellia, Mezzosopran
Servilia, sister of the Sesto, Liebhaberin of the Annio, Sopran
Annio, friend of the Sesto, lover of the Servilia, Mezzosopran
Publio, captain of the Prätorianer, bass

Orchestra occupation

2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 1 Bassettklarinette, 1 Bassetthorn, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, bass drums, Streicher

Into two airs Mozart uses a solo instrument in the orchestra: In Sestos air Parto mA do ben million (No. 9) a clarinet, in Vitellias air Non più di fiori (No. 23) a Bassethorn.

Famous productions
Production with the Salzburger festivals 2003:
Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Production: Martin Kušej
Tito Vespasiano: Michael harms
Vitellia: Dorothea Röschmann
Servilia: Barbara Bonney
Sesto: Vesselina Kasarova
Annio: Elina Garanca
Publio: Luca Pisaroni
Concert combination Viennese state opera choir
Viennese Philharmonic

Opera Boston's 'La Clemenza di Tito' Soars

By Paul Joseph Walkowski
Special to The Epoch Times
Nov 01, 2006

LA CLEMENZA DI TITO' : Paul Austin Kelly as Tito and Phyllis Pancella as Sesto confront betrayal, remorse and forgiveness. Photo: Clive Grainger
Opera Boston has staked out a niche for itself in this city as a company that likes to take chances in bringing both new and little-heard or little-seen shows to the opera stage.

On October 20 at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston, a packed audience got an opportunity to see something that hasn't been seen in a while around here: Mozart's final opera, La Clemenza di Tito (1791), translated loosely as "The Merciful Tito." The audience was not disappointed for, as it has in the past, Opera Boston delivered the goods in a production that truly soared on the strength of a superb cast and an enjoyable, increasingly appreciated Mozart score.

Based on the libretto by Pietro Metastasio, who scripted the realistic text a half-century earlier, this is the story of a conniving and selfish wannabe queen, Vitellia, daughter of the deposed Roman emperor Vitellius, and of her attempts to manipulate friends and lovers to kill the son of the new emperor Vespasian, Tito, whom she believes she has no hope of winning since his heart belongs to another.

Titus Vespasianus ("Tito") ruled Rome for a short period A.D. 79–81, and in many respects shared some of the benign, enlightened characteristics of Emperor Leopold II, King of Bohemia, for whom the opera was commissioned.

In any event, Vitellia recruits for this deed, Sestro, Tito's closest friend, who happens to be in love with her. He, in turn, reluctantly recruits other friends to assist him. When the plot fails, Tito, at first angry, orders all involved to the arena to be killed, but then decides against it when he sees the torment of his friend. He decides that he'd rather be remembered as the emperor who, out of mercy, spared those disloyal to him than the man who killed his friends out of revenge.

To bring this production to the stage, Opera Boston brought on the creative talents of Brad Dalton as stage director, David Newell for scenic design, and Nancy Leary for costumes. They in turn gave us a La Clemenza that looked modern (maybe French resistance World War II style) but decidedly Roman in its sets which comprised a movable series of soft-white, windowed walls that resembled a coliseum but worked just as comfortably as the interior of Vitellia's bedroom or the emperor's great hall.

Christopher Ostrom, who is OB's resident lighting designer, filled in the backgrounds with solid colorful backlighting and some creative side lighting off the sides of windows all very nicely done.

Conductor Gil Rose guided this production effortlessly and moved things along with elegance and style, fitting and typical of the fine orchestra he conducts.

As for the performances, OB gave us a big voice in the person of soprano Wendy Bryn Harmer, singing the role of Vitellia. Her tonal quality and clarity throughout was superlative, her acting was on mark, and she displayed solid stage presences whether being petulant, angry, sullen, smitten, or just plain conniving (as she often was).

Matching Ms. Harmer in her strong stage presence was mezzo-soprano Phyllis Pancella, singing the pants role of Sesto. Ms. Pancella displayed amazing vocal agility, solid emotional involvement with her character, and strong acting skills that made us believe "she" was actually a "he"—and that's saying a lot, coming from someone who wishes that trouser roles would go to tenors. Ms. Pancella is a wonderfully talented singer with both the punch and pizzazz to make any part she sings hers. Last night, she was Sesto. Well done!

Another major force on stage was tenor Paul Austin Kelly, who sang the role of the emperor Tito.

Singing the other pants role—the part of Annio, Sesto's friend—was mezzo-soprano Krista River. Teamed with some pretty strong singers, Ms. River not only held her own but also took center stage, displaying ease with her part and enough vocal agility to make her Annio interesting and real.

Bass-baritone Kevin Deas singing the role of Publio (Tito's guard), and soprano Kendra Colton, singing the role of Servillia (Annio's betrothed), delivered solid and believable performances. They displayed solid vocal ability, sustenance, and even-control through-out, adding immeasurably to the cohesiveness of this fine ensemble cast.

Paul Joseph Walkowski lives


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