This stylish 1991 production of Mozart's final opera is another triumph from England's Glyndebourne Festival. "Odd man out" among Mozart's stage works, Tito clashes with such subtle masterpieces as Don Giovanni and The ... more »Marriage of Figaro due to its remote subject matter (assassination plot against Roman emperor Titus) and serious tone. But when done right--as here--Tito emerges, through Mozart's sublime music, as a classic character study. Director Nicholas Hytner couches the story in an immediacy often missing from stagings of Mozart's operas. Led by Philip Langridge's forgiving Titus and Ashley Putnam's conspiratorial Vitellia, the cast sings with the skillful brio of the best Mozarteans; Andrew Davis fluidly conducts the London Philharmonic. The opera is sung in Italian with optional English subtitles, and the Dolby 5.1 mix places the voices out front, as they should be in Mozart. This Tito is a welcome addition to anyone's Mozart collection. --Kevin Filipski« less
"Composed in only eighteen days, La Clemenza di Tito is Mozart's operatic swan song, his last opera, written a few months before his death (some say the one before last, The Magic Flute being the very last one) and perhaps the most beautiful opera ever written. It enjoyed considerable critical acclaim and great success in the years following Mozart's death and then it was largely forgotten, only to be revived in the last forty years or so. Contemporary critics were in doubt whether La Clemenza had surpassed Don Giovanni. It was referred to by one of them as a "heavenly work, full of emotion and expression with stately and sublime choruses and andantes of heavenly sweetness"; by another as "the most perfect work Mozart completed". This video is a very nice rendition of this supreme masterwork, beautifully sung and well acted. Ashley Putnam is a convincing Vitellia - envious, scheming, ruthless and yet... so human. The music is never too fast, the way Mozart should be played, though the recitatives occasionally are. It is sung in the original Italian with English subtitles. I found the staging slightly awkward sometimes (why the slanted stage?) and I don't understand why everybody is barefoot (unless there is some esoteric significance in that that escaped me) but it is still a 5-star video, I think. If you are only familiar with Mozart's other more famous master operas such as Figaro or Don Giovanni you may want to give La Clemenza a try. You will find a world of stunningly beautiful arias in the best Mozartian tradition, fascinating characters such as Vitellia and Sesto, who both dominate the opera, a clever plot, plus intrigue, seduction, love, passion, despair and at the end... redemption and mercy. Only Mozart could give us all that in just a little over two hours of music. In Mozart there is never any of the frivolity and the almost pop quality of the music you find in those often silly 19th century Romantic operas which sound like soundtracks of Hollywood movies. There is none of that here. In Mozart there is always structural perfection, sensitivity and unparalleled inspiration. Don't be misled by the fact that La Clemenza was composed in just eighteen days. Handel composed the Messiah in a little over two weeks and for a genius such as Mozart eighteen days could mean eternity. I don't know how many times I have watched both this video and the other version of La Clemenza available (the Levine/Ponnelle version, also very good - James Levine understands Mozart!). It never failed to move me. Mozart composed seven master operas in the last decade of his life (his early operas are also extraordinary works: Il Re Pastore, Mitridate, La Finta Giardiniera etc.). In my opinion, these seven masterworks are the seven greatest operas ever composed. La Clemenza di Tito is sublime in its perfection and simplicity, a fitting ending to Mozart's operatic career and truly his swan song."
Minimilist production pales in comparison with others.
Thomas E. Ascher | Bellingham, WA | 11/08/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Sets and costumes are minimal, little more than limbo sets enhanced with lighting. Andrew Davis's conducting is slow paced, dry, lacking in nuance or excitement. Technical quality of picture and sound, however, are excellent. If you must have a DVD version of this opera, go ahead and purchase. Otherwise, better to wait for the filmed version, with the Wiener Philharmoniker, James Levine conducting, directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. So much more exciting visually and musically, with principals Tatiana Troyanos, Carol Neblett, Catherine Malfitano, Anne Howels, Eric Tappy and Kurt Rydl. Hopefully this version will be released on DVD soon, and worth waiting for. Otherwise, try and get a used copy on LD or simply order on VHS!"
An object of unjust neglect
Brian J Hay | Sarnia, Ontario Canada | 03/30/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a beautiful opera, one that lovely melodies and a concise story line make easy to appreciate. To be fair, there are signs that Mozart was rushed. Some of the secondary arias are shorter than what's found in the great comedies. Many numbers lack the musical variety found in even lesser pieces from Figaro, Don Giovanni and such. This isn't to say those works are without baggage-they aren't. Masetto's aria (for instance) is a second rate song at best. Mostly though, more attention seems to have given to the supporting roles in the larger works. The original secco recitatives for this opera are a sore point as well. Mozart assigned the work to a pupil, probably Franz Anton Süssmayr. They're a string of duds, and that's being nice. John Eliot Gardiner recorded Tito around the same time this production was filmed and trimmed most of them. The people in charge here found somebody who cared about what he was doing and paid to have a new set written.The result was well worth the effort. Stephen Oliver's recitatives provide this opera with something that compliments it and carries the action well. Having something like this done was long overdue. Tito contains some of the most beautiful music Mozart wrote. Yes, many numbers are shorter than usual. That's fine as they fill the psychological needs of their characters while also preventing their musical phrases from being overplayed. There isn't a weak link in the cast. Yes, Titus is a one dimensional paragon of goodness. Yet, when you watch Philip Langridge perform "his music" it's easy to believe a man can be like that. Diana Montague and Martine Mahé are superb as Sextus and Annio. There's one complaint and it's a minor one. These ladies look too feminine to forget that they're a pair of (very) attractive women. Peter Rose does well in the role of Publius. Elzbieta Szymytka is ravishing as Servilla. Her voice has that lovely crystalline quality so well suited to Mozart's work. Ashley Putnam is great! The role of Vitellia contains an emotional kaleidoscope and she delivers one. She is jealous and passionate, loving and ruthless, proud and then humbled all at once. Her music, particularly "Non Piu di Fiori, is fiendishly difficult. Some passages almost call for a soprano with mezzo-soprano's lower range. There are two instances where the music finds her limit but in both instances she recovers quickly. The sets are odd as are some of the camera angles. They suit the action though, and better yet, don't interfere with it. The subtitles are clear (though sometimes off centre) and contain a few typos ("epress"?) but give far more detail than what's found in most productions. New viewers will appreciate that.This is an excellent production, one that's great for lovers of opera and for those new to opera.Ah, Perdona Al Primo AffettoThis duet deserves mention on its own merits. It is one of the most perfect and beautiful gems imaginable. The first recording I heard was sung by Frederica von Stade and Lucia Popp under the baton of Sir Colin Davis. The emotional reaction it set off then was uncontrollable. To this day it usually has that effect. This is one of those pieces where beauty doesn't fade or wither with familiarity. Each time you listen there's a new detail to appreciate. The vocal lines are sublimely gentle, each note a caressing touch. The scoring is a miracle of transparent clarity. When performed as it is here, this is a model for what music can be. It touches the heart, caresses the emotions and makes you think about the beauty man can aspire to. To have it performed the way Martine Mahé (Annio), Elzbieta Szymytka and Andrew Davis have done it is worth the price of the entire disc."
A well sung and colorful production
David | North Carolina, USA | 08/24/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's nice to see that Mozart's operas are showing up more on DVD, especially such lesser known works as Clemenza di Tito--Mozart's last opera. This is an enjoyable and well sung production, with lots of bright colors that are very eye catching. The sound and picture are excellent, and as this was the first time I have ever SEEN this opera, it made me appreciate it all the more. The singers, while not all household names, are well chosen; they not only sing well but they act well and have excellent stage presence. This is a quality production that deserves to be seen."
A gem of an opera. A gem of a production
Toni Bernhard | Davis, CA United States | 04/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My understanding is that Mozart began composing La Clemenza di Tito after he'd started The Magic Flute but finished Clemenza first, and that this is why there's disagreement over whether Clemenza or Flute is his last opera. No matter, we're just so fortunate that Mozart squeezed in this little opera seria gem before he died. Lean, with sublime vocal and instrumental music, and with forgiveness as its theme, Clemenza is very moving.
This production has a superb cast. Philip Langridge is touching as the troubled Tito, who naively wants to rule with love, not power, but at least in the end can use that power to grant forgiveness all around. Ashley Putnam has a strong stage presence as the cunning Vitellia. Her aria, "Non piu di fiori," where she duets with the basset horn, is stunning. Diana Montague is excellent as Sesto. The beautiful wind accompaniment in Sesto's aria "Parto, ma tu ben mio," is one of the highlights of the production.
And then we have the love duet, "Ah perdona al primo affetto," beautifully performed by Elzbieta Szmytka and Martine Mahe. It is sweet and tender and understated and, typically Mozart, is not even written for the lead characters. Ending with "Banish from life, all that is not love," it may be the last love duet he left for us."