Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Oh come un gran contento: Clemenza di Tito

The Emperor debates clemency: Filianoti as Tito (Photo (c) Ken Howard/Met Opera)
The vox populi is correct: the Met's revival of Clemenza di Tito is not only musically polished, but emotionally compelling, and stylish throughout. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle;s production employs elegant aesthetic hybridity, combining allusions to eighteenth-century Europe and ancient Rome in both the architecture and the costumes. The sets are characterized by symmetry and proportion, those shibboleths of the Augustan age, and the Personenregie is formal but not lacking in emotional intimacy. Some of the gestural conventions might have seemed stale, had they not been so convincingly employed by the singers, but as it was, I found myself moved by Ponnelle's tableaux. I especially appreciated the early distinction made between Tito's public and private personae, the staging of the emperor's Act II deliberations in an eighteenth-century gentleman's study, and the dramatic lighting for Vitellia's journey towards self-knowledge in "Non più di fiori." More frivolously, I liked the opening which sets up Vitellia's political persuasion of Sesto as pillow talk. The performance--including the late substitution of Geraldine Chauvet for the indisposed Elina Garanca in the role of Sesto--made a great case for the intellectual, emotional, and musical refinements of Mozart's work.

Harry Bicket (who'll be back at the Met for Giulio Cesare in the spring) led the orchestra in an energetic and nuanced account of the score, with generally fleet tempi, exhibiting lightness and solemnity where respectively called for. Bicket kept his forces moving briskly, and the action flowed smoothly as a result. From where I sat, the orchestra occasionally seemed to overbalance the singers, but I was just a few rows behind the pit. The cast was uniformly strong; Oren Gradus was perhaps not particularly distinguished as Publio but he was in distractingly good company. Lucy Crowe a made sweet-toned and sympathetic Servillia, and one with backbone, which was nice to see; "S'altro che lacrime" was convincingly and skilfully sung. The role of Annio showed Kate Lindsey at her best; an audience favorite, Lindsey was winsomely earnest and displayed assured singing, both individually and in ensembles. "Tu fosti tradito" was moving in its expression of affection and desperation, with impressive piano singing.

Frittoli as Vitellia (Photo (c) Ken Howard/Met Opera)
That Geraldine Chauvet stepped in--and made her Met debut--on short notice made her performance as Sesto the more impressive, but it was a performance that needed no excuses. Chauvet sang with fine dynamic control, good phrasing, and rich color; it is not only to her own credit but to that of her fellow singers that her vocal and dramatic chemistry with the other principals came across so well. "Parto, parto" was a sensual masterpiece. Partnering her as Vitellia was Barbara Frittoli, in the best performance I've heard from her. She had moments of off intonation, but produced superbly phrased and brilliantly charismatic singing. Her Vitellia was slightly zany, distracted and self-dramatizing by turns, but nonetheless dignified, and always compelling; Frittoli's "Non piu di fiori" was a brilliantly charted journey towards self-knowledge. Giuseppe Filianoti was on very good form as the conscientious emperor, sounding more comfortable than I've heard him elsewhere. There was a touch of the silent movie star about his acting, but he sang with fine technique, especially in the demanding "Se all'impero." Thanks to the commitment and skill of all the musicians, the final ensemble provided a vision of an ideal society, with public and private selves reconciled and fully realized.


  1. I'm German ; I was in NY on a businnesstrip and went to the MET : wath a surprise to discover omce more the rich and beautyfull voice of Géraldine Chauvet!
    Each summer I go to Arena di Verona : I was there when Chsuvet made her italian Debut as CARMEN in the ARENA , under the baton of Placido DOMINGO , staged by Franco ZEFFIRELLI .
    CHAUVET was a great CARMEN in ARENA 2009 and in 2010 too .
    Congratulation for her MET Debut as Sextus , really well done .
    Thomas .

    1. I'm very glad to hear that the last minute change was not a disappointment to you! I'm hoping that New York audiences will get to hear more of Chauvet soon. Thanks for sharing your experiences of her Carmen!


Start a conversation!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...