Thursday, September 18, 2008

Clemenza di Tito

I was recently cast in Florida State opera's production of Clemenza di Tito by Mozart as Tito, and it will run on the 1st and 2nd of November in the Opperman Music Hall at FSU. I'm not sure which night I will sing, but it is one of those two nights. I will keep you posted.

This is one of Mozart's more obscure operas written at the same time he wrote The Magic Flute, and is actually the last opera he ever wrote. It is quite difficult to pull off dramatically. So, to prepare you for the show I thought I would run through the plot and show you some of the interesting parts (see if you can keep up):

It's in two Acts,

Act I:
This is a classical operatic love triangle story with a twist. Vitellia (really mean girl) is the daughter of an ex-emperor (not sure how he became an "ex") and she really wants power back. The emperor now is me (Titus or Tito) and he's a really nice guy, but Vitellia doesn't like him because he has all the power she wants. She does have an opportunity though - Sextus (or Sesto) who is Titus' great great friend is in love with Vitellia, which she uses as a chance to get revenge on Titus. Titus was going to marry Berenice (a Roman Jewish queen - daugher of King Herod - yes, that King Herod) but decides not to marry her because he needs to marry a Roman Roman girl (not a Roman Jewish one) - even though he is in love with Berenice. Vitellia tells Sextus to act against Titus, but to wait until after Titus chooses a new bride in hopes that it will be Vitellia (the less violent way of becoming queen).

Now follow me here - Titus does choose a bride, but it isn't Vitellia (uh-oh), it's Servilia.  To make matters worse Servilia is actually Sextus' sister (so, he's marrying his best friend's Roman Roman sister).  So Titus orders Annius (or Annio - Sextus' other friend) to tell Servilia the "good" news.  But here's the problem that Titus doesn't know about - Annius is actually in love with Servilia.  

So far:

Titus = loves Berenice, she's not Roman, chooses Servilia
Vitellia = wants power, hopes to be Titus' bride, not chosen
Sextus = Titus' good good friend, loves Vitellia
Annius = Sextus' friend, works for Titus, loves Servilia
Servilia = Sextus' sister, loves Annius, chosen to be Titus' bride

With me so far?  Take a moment to catch your breath if you must.  If you get all of that the rest isn't so hard - it's kind of like playing dot to dot.  

Servilia and Annius are bummed out because they love each other which means Servilia doesn't want to get married to Titus, so she decides to tell Titus.  However, being the faithful good Roman that she is she also decides that if Titus insists that she marry him, she will go through with it.  She tells Titus, and since he's really a great guy he says he would never come between her and Annius.  

Now here is a classic opera "oops" moment - during all of this Titus being nice stuff Vitellia has heard about him choosing Servilia and she's REALLY mad now!  So, she convinces Sextus (Titus' good good friend) to assasinate him.  Sesto sings a famous aria about it (Parto, parto):

(Check out Vitellia's hair!!)

Now here's the part I'm sure you were expecting - as soon as Sextus leaves to do the deed, Annius shows up with some news.  Titus has chosen Vitellia to be his new bride (OOPS!! - what has she done).  She feels just a little bit guilty, but it's too late - Sextus is gone.

Sextus himself is off trying to decide if he really wants to go through with this, but cannot stop himself and his friends from burning down the capital.  Everyone (but Titus) comes in and reacts in horror to the burning capital - as any of us would.  Sextus comes in and announces that he saw Titus get killed, which of course increases the shock and horror in true Mozartian fashion.  Sextus is about to admit he did it, but Vitellia stops him.  The chorus mourns.    

Act II:

Annius comes in (once again with news) and tells Sextus, guess what...Titus is alive!  Hooray!  Annius saw him walking around the smoke and rubble, which means Sextus mistook him for another.  Publius comes in (oh yeah, he's Titus actual good good friend - probably because he's paid to be, his body guard and head of police) and arrests Sextus.  He tells Sextus that he had stabbed one of his own co-conspirators dressed as Titus (why was he dressed as Titus?....).   

Sextus appears before the senate and is tried while Titus waits in shock.  Remember, he thought Sextus was his good good friend.  Sextus, feeling very guilty admits his guilt and says he should be put to death.  Titus agrees and has him sent away.  Now, you may have noticed that the title is "Clemenza" di Tito, which probable implies there will be some clemency somewhere.  Just you wait!

Titus has a raging struggle within himself (which isn't easy to do with just recitative, so luckily he has an aria as well):

(in this clip Stuart Burrows really shows the raging internal struggle...   ...    ...   ....)

and decides (yes all of that was one long extended parenthesis) that he will not rule by fear, because he doesn't want servants and subjects devoted falsely because of fear.  He tears up the execution order!  See, he really is a great guy!

Vitellia is also tormented by guilt, and sings about it.  

They gather at the ampitheater where Sextus is to be thrown to the wild beasts, and Vitellia steps forward to admit her part in the plot, which bums out Titus - I mean come on, show the guy some love!  But because he is even awesomer than anyone thought, he grants Vitellia clemency as well!  What a guy!

Everyone sings about how wonderful he is, and the curtain falls as Victor Borge says - not fast enough.  

For more info and fun facts CLICK HERE for the Wikipedia article.  

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