Spain Mozart: La Clemenza di Tito, Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Real / Christophe Rousset (conductor), Teatro Real, Madrid, 20 & 21.11.2016. (JMI)
Tito – Jeremy Ovenden/Bernard Richter
Vitellia – Karina Gauvin/Yolanda Auyanet
Sesto – Monica Bacelli/Maite Beaumont
Annio – Sophie Harmsen
Servilia – Sylvia Schwartz/Anna Palimina
Publio – Guido Loconsolo
Director – Ursel and Kart-Ernst Hermann
Sets, Costumes and Lighting – Karl-Ernst Hermann
As a tribute to the late Gerard Mortier, its former Artistic Director, Teatro Real has staged one of the productions most identified with him. Two casts were assembled, and the performances have been highly satisfactory: a beautiful staging, remarkable musical direction and signers well-suited to their characters.
If La Clemenza di Tito was a constant in Mortier’s career, so was this production by Ursel and Karl-Ernst Hermann which he premiered in 1982 in Brussels. Although it has been 34 years since the staging first appeared, it is still remarkably fresh and engaging. Here’s what I wrote about a performance at Teatro Real four years ago: review.
The Teatro Real orchestra, led by Christophe Rousset, gave an excellent performance, as did the chorus. Mr. Rousset is well-known to opera lovers for his Baroque repertoire, and often conducts his own orchestra, Les Talens Lyriques. He was a little less impressive here than in Baroque music, and especially in French Baroque. But good taste and delicacy were always present, and Act II with the first cast was particularly notable.
The two casts can be considered first and second only in chronological terms, not because of their quality. Both gave admirable performances, although the second cast was slightly better.
Emperor Titus Vespasian was interpreted by English tenor Jeremy Ovenden, an interesting singer; but he has always been a light tenor and still is, while the character of Tito demands a heavier voice. In this sense, the voice of Bernard Richter in the second cast was better suited to the part, even though Jeremy Ovenden was, in general, more convincing.
Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin sang the role of Vitellia with gusto and sensitivity. The only problem is that her low notes are not enough for the demands of Vitellia, and her top register is rather tight. I prefer her in Baroque opera. Yolanda Auyanet was a pleasant surprise in the second cast: her voice is attractive, with no problems at the bottom but a little tight at the top.
Monica Bacelli made a convincing Sesto, especially in Act II where she shone in her great aria. In fact, both interpreters of Sesto were excellent. Maite Beaumont in the second cast was very moving and extremely musical. She was, however, short on volume, while Monica Bacelli offered a wider voice.
Mezzo soprano Sophie Harmsen made a positive impression in the role of Annio. Her attractive voice is large enough, and she sings with gusto. She shone in her aria in Act II, and it’s a pity that Mr. Rousset did not stop the orchestra at the end of it.
Sylvia Schwartz was a correct Servilia, and Anna Palimina handled the role nicely in the second cast. Baritone Guido Loconsolo sang the role of Publio here four years ago, and his earlier performance was stronger.
José M. Irurzun