Pan American Mozart from Madrid

SpainSpain Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, La Clemenza di Tito: Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid, Thomas Hengelbrock (conductor), Coro Intermezzo, Teatro Real, Madrid, 2.3.2012 (JMI)

Production: Salzburg Festival

Direction: Ursel and Karl-Ernst Hermann
Sets, Costumes, Lighting: Karl-Ernst Hermann


Tito: Yann Beuron
Sesto: Kate Aldrich
Vitellia: Amanda Majeski
Annio: Serena Malfi
Sevilia: Maria Savastano
Publio: Guido Loconsolo

Pictures courtesy Teatro Real, © Javier del Real

Wherever Gerard Mortier reigns, Mozart’s last opera La Clemenza di Tito pops up on the bill. That’s no different at Madrid’s Teatro Real. Whether artistic directors ought to push their personal favorites quite so determinately might be questioned, but not the success of these performances.

It’s not just that La Clemenza di Tito has been a constant in the career of Gerard Mortier, but also always in the production by Ursel and Karl-Ernst Hermann, which premiered in the distant year of 1982 at Brussels’s La Monnaie. For being 30 years old, it still is remarkably freshness and of high quality. It is a minimalist production, in which the sets consist of three walls and a ceiling painted in white, transitioning to a light green near the floor. There are three doors to allow the characters to enter and exit the stage, and sometimes (as in the Capitol fire scene or Vitellia’s second aria) they allow a view onto a set of columns or seascapes. On stage there are just two chairs, joined in the second act by a broken column, and a throne—always in white—for the scene of Tito and Sesto. Costumes are very appealing and the lighting work is notably good. Add to this the outstanding stage direction, and the result doesn’t look anywhere near 30 years old.

available at Amazon
W.A. Mozart, La Clemenza di Tito,
Harnoncourt / WPh / Röschmann, Kasarova, Schade, Garanča
re-released on Arthaus Musik

The musical direction was in the hands of the versatile musicologist, violinist, and conductor German director Thomas Hengelbrock, who gave much life to the opera. It is not easy to conduct La Clemenza, because its many recitatives can get long in the tooth, without a good conductor. Mr.Hengelbrock injected vigor and got excellent results from the orchestra. If his direction was more romantic than truly Mozartian (particularly in the first act), and shaved some finesse off the score, it still translated into strength and made for remarkable contrasts: In all, a very interesting musical performance.

Emperor Tito was French tenor Yann Beuron; excellent in the recitatives, but less so in ensembles and arias where his voice lacks brightness, particularly at the top. His is a modest voice in a good artist, but the rôle would be better off with a brighter tenor.

American mezzo soprano Kate Aldrich’ Sesto was outstanding vocally and dramatically. Her arias were a model of good singing and until Elina Garanca is back in business, I can’t think of a better Sesto than hers.

The other big success was American soprano Amanda Majeski. Vitellia is a very difficult role—with an impossible tessitura, highly demanding at both ends of the range. Amanda Majeski excelled in it from start to finish. Her soprano is attractive, smooth, and with a great extension which allows her to meet the immense demands of the character. And apart from being a remarkable singer, she is also a first-rate performer.

Italian mezzo Serena Malfi was remarkable as Annio—much better than in Valencia’s La Cenerentola (S&H review here). Only her pitch at the top of her range was off. The very good pan-American impression left by the cast was rounded out by the young Argentinean soprano Maria Savastano, who made for a very attractive Servilia, singing her part with gusto. Italian baritone Guido Loconsolo completed the cast as a correct Publio.

Teatro Real was sold out—but at a 50% discount.

José Mª Irurzun