An elegant and satisfying La clemenza di Tito in Barcelona

SpainSpain Mozart, La clemenza di Tito: Liceu Chorus and Orchestra / Philippe Auguin (conductor). Gran Theatre del Liceu, Barcelona, 19 & 20.2.2020. (JMI)

Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito (c) A. Bofill

Director – David McVicar (original), Marie Lambert-Le Bihan (revival)
Sets – David McVicar and Bettina Neuhaus
Costumes – Jenny Tiramani
Lighting – Jennifer Tipton

Tito – Paolo Fanale / Dovlet Nurgeldiyev
Vitellia – Myrtò Papatanasiu / Vanessa Goikoetxea
Sesto – Stéphanie d’Oustrac
Annio – Lidia Vinyes-Curtis
Servilia – Anne-Catherine Gillet
Publio – Matthieu Lécroart

Mozart’s final opera, La clemenza di Tito, was last performed at the Liceu in October 2006, when it enjoyed a great success. On this occasion, the Liceu has turned to the David McVicar staging which premiered at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2011. (It was announced as a Liceu production, which seems to indicate that the Barcelona theater has bought it.)

This is an elegant production that moves the action to nineteenth century. At the rear of the stage is the façade of a palace with a large staircase to the right, and the indoor scenes are achieved with the movement of walls and pillars. The costumes are perfectly suited – I would note, in particular, Tito’s red mantle in the final scene. The plot is correctly narrated, and the various characters are well defined.

Philippe Auguin, returning to the Liceu after his Otello four years ago, was in charge of the musical direction. His reading was effective and, for me, more convincing in the second act. As always, the orchestra and chorus gave fine performances.

Emperor Tito was played in the first cast by Italian tenor Paolo Fanale, whose voice is somewhat lighter than is desirable. Nevertheless, he gave a strong performance with some truly exemplary and well-phrased recitatives, and he solved the problems of the aria ‘Se all’impero’, including its difficult coloratura. The second Tito was Dovlet Nurgeldiyev, who was making his debut at Liceu and left a positive impression. His attractive, expressive voice is nicely suited to the character.

Vitellia was played by soprano Myrtò Papatanasiu. An important middle range is needed in this role, and she fell short. In addition, she is sometimes a little tight at the top, and her lower notes can sound forced. Soprano Vanessa Goikoetxea in the second cast was better suited vocally to the part. Her voice is appealing, and she solved the demands of the bass notes in her Act II aria. However, her high notes can be strident on occasion.

The rest of the cast was the same in both performances that I attended. Soprano Anne-Catherine Gillet has a beautiful voice and was excellent in the role of Servilia. Mezzo-soprano Stéphanie d’Oustrac as Sesto offered an important voice, especially in the center, and Matthieu Lécroart was correct as Publio. Annio was played by Lidia Vinyes-Curtis who had some tuning problems in the upper notes.

José M. Irurzun 

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