One of Mozart’s last operas, La clemenza di Tito, is a story of friendship and forgiveness triumphing over jealousy and violence.
The story is set in ancient Rome. Vitellia hates the Roman Emperor Tito because he has not chosen her as his wife. Tito wants to marry the sister of his friend Sesto, Servilia. Sesto in turn covets Vitellia, who promises her love in return for Tito’s death. Servilia spurns Tito, who in turn woos Vitellia. But she has already ordered the assassination… However, the attempt on Tito’s life fails. Vitellia confesses that she is behind the murder attempt, Sesto is sentenced to death. Torn between friendship and reason of state, Tito realises the full extent of the dilemma each ruler finds himself in. He decides to be merciful and pardons Sesto and Vitellia.
"The Clemency of Titus"
Opera in 2 acts
Sung in Italian
About 2 hours 20 min + interval
Rome, in the year 79
Vitellia, daughter of the late emperor Vitellio (who had been deposed by Tito's father Vespasian), wants revenge against Tito. She stirs up Tito's vacillating friend Sesto, who is in love with her, to act against him (duet Come ti piace, imponi). But when she hears word that Tito has sent Berenice of Cilicia, of whom she was jealous, back to Jerusalem, Vitellia tells Sesto to delay carrying out her wishes, hoping Tito will choose her (Vitellia) as his empress (aria Deh, se piacer mi vuoi).
Tito, however, decides to choose Sesto's sister Servilia to be his empress, and orders Annio (Sesto's friend) to bear the message to Servilia (aria Del più sublime soglio). Since Annio and Servilia, unbeknownst to Tito, are in love, this news is very unwelcome to both (duet Ah, perdona al primo affetto). Servilia decides to tell Tito the truth but also says that if Tito still insists on marrying her, she will obey. Tito thanks the gods for Servilia's truthfulness, and immediately forswears the idea of coming between her and Annio (aria Ah, se fosse intorno al trono).
In the meantime, however, Vitellia has heard the news about Tito's interest in Servilia and is again boiling with jealousy. She urges Sesto to assassinate Tito. He agrees, singing one of the opera's most famous arias (Parto, parto, ma tu, ben mio with basset clarinet obbligato). Almost as soon as he leaves, Annio and the guard Publio arrive to escort Vitellia to Tito, who has now chosen her as his empress. She is torn with feelings of guilt and worry over what she has sent Sesto to do.
Sesto, meanwhile, is at the Capitol wrestling with his conscience (recitativo Oh Dei, che smania è questa), as he and his accomplices go about to burn it down. The other characters (except Tito) enter severally and react with horror to the burning Capitol. Sesto reenters and announces that he saw Tito slain, but Vitellia stops him from incriminating himself as the assassin. The others lament Tito in a slow, mournful conclusion to act one.
The act begins with Annio telling Sesto that Emperor Tito is in fact alive and has just been seen; in the smoke and chaos, Sesto mistook another for Tito. Sesto wants to leave Rome, but Annio persuades him not to (aria Torna di Tito a lato). Soon Publio arrives to arrest Sesto, bearing the news that it was one of Sesto's co-conspirators who dressed himself in Tito's robes and was stabbed, though not mortally, by Sesto. The Senate tries Sesto as Tito waits impatiently, sure that his friend will be exonerated; Publio expresses his doubts (aria Tardi s'avvede d'un tradimento) and leaves for the Senate. Annio begs Tito to show clemency towards his friend (aria Tu fosti tradito). Publio returns and announces that Sesto has been found guilty and an anguished Tito must sign Sesto's death sentence.
He decides to send for Sesto first, attempting to obtain further details about the plot. Sesto takes all the guilt on himself and says he deserves death (rondo Deh, per questo istante solo), so Tito tells him he shall have it and sends him away. But after an extended internal struggle, Tito tears up the execution warrant for Sesto. He determines that, if the world wishes to accuse him (Tito) of anything, it should charge him with showing too much mercy, rather than with having a vengeful heart (aria Se all'impero).
Vitellia at this time is torn by guilt, but Servilia warns her that tears alone will not save Sesto (aria S'altro che lagrime). Vitellia finally decides to confess all to Tito, giving up her hopes of empire (rondo Non più di fiori with basset horn obbligato). In the amphitheatre, the condemned (including Sesto) are waiting to be thrown to the wild beasts. Tito is about to show mercy, when Vitellia offers her confession as the instigator of Sesto's plot. Although shocked, the emperor includes her in the general clemency he offers (recitativo accompagnato Ma che giorno è mai questo?). The opera concludes with all the subjects praising the extreme generosity of Tito; he then asks that the gods cut short his days, should he ever cease to care for the good of Rome.
Tito Vespasian – Tenor (lyric)
Vitellia – Soprano (dramatic coloratura)
Daughter of the deposed Emperor Vitellio
Sesto – Mezzo-soprano/Countertenor (lyric)
A young patrician, friend of Tito, in love with Vitellia
Annio – Soprano/Mezzo-soprano (lyric)
A young patrician, friend of Sesto, in love with Servilia
Servilia – Soprano (soubrette)
Sister of Sesto, in love with Annio
Publio – Bass (lyric)
Praetorian prefect, commander of the Praetorian Guard
Place of birth: Salzburg, Austria
Place of death: Vienna, Austria
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was an Austrian composer widely known as one of the greatest composers of all time. He is the the archetype of the classical period together with his contemporaries Haydn and Beethoven. He was a versatile composer writing operas, symphonies, chamber music, piano works, concertos and much more. In his short life he wrote more than 600 works.
Mozart began playing the harpsichord at the age of three and started composing at the age of five. During his childhood he went on tour with his sister, who was also a child prodigy, and his father, Leopold, performing in Europe.
He married into the Weber family. Together with his wife Constanze they had six children of whom two survived infancy.
In 1781 Mozart moved from Salzburg to Vienna. The last 10 years of his life were very productive. His most popular operas; Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte and Die Zauberflöte were all written during this period. The three first are also known as the “Da Ponte” operas with reference to the librettist.
“What's even worse than a flute? - Two flutes!“
“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.“
Mozart had lots of pet animals and was very fond of scatological humour.
Most prominent operas
Bastien und Bastienne 1768
Lucio Silla 1772
La finta giardiniera 1774
Die Entführung aus dem Serail 1782
Der Schauspieldirektor 1786
Le nozze di Figaro 1786
Don Giovanni 1787
Così fan tutte 1789
Die Zauberflöte 1791
La clemenza di Tito 1791
Pietro Metastasio was an Italian poet and librettist, considered the most important writer of opera seria libretti. The original libretto was written in 1734.
Caterino Tommaso Mazzolà was an Italian poet and librettist. He was born into a wealthy family from the islands of Murano, Venice. He reworked Metastasio's original text from a three-act libretto into a two-act libretto.
2, 2, 2d1, 2 - 2, 2, 0, 0
timp, strings, basso continuo
La clemenza di Tito was Mozart's last opera. It was first performed publicly on the 6th of September 1791 at the Estates Theatre in Prague. Mozart died three months later on the 5th of December 1791.
Today it is one of the top 50 most performed operas worldwide.
Duet – Ah perdona al primo (Servilia, Annio)
Aria – Parto, parto (Sesto)
Aria – Torna di Tito a lato (Annio)
Aria – Deh, per questo istante solo (Sesto)
Aria - Se all'impero (Tito)
Aria - S'altro che lacrime (Servilia)
Aria - Ecco il punto... Non più di fiori (Vitellia)
Sextet - Finale (Tito, Publio, Annio, Sesto, Vitellia, Servilia)