Mozart – La clemenza di Tito
Tito: Rolando Villazon, Vitellia: Marina Rebeka, Sesto: Joyce DiDonato, Servilia: Regula Mühlemann, Annio: Tara Erraught, Publio: Adam Plachetka
Chorus Master: Denis Comtet
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Lorenza Borrani: leader
Romain Guyot: clarinet
Continuo: Jory Vinikour: fortepiano; William Conway: cello
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon, 2018
This year, the Mozart project supported by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Rolando Villazon and that already comprises Die Entführung aus dem Serail and the three Da Ponte operas is enriched by the recording of Mozart’s second-last opera, La clemenza di Tito, performed for the first time in Prague on 6 September 1791 to celebrate the coronation of Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia.
Recorded in Baden-Baden as the other four albums, La clemenza di Tito features singers who already take part in this cycle, as Joyce DiDonato, and new appearances as Marina Rebeka.
La Clemenza di Tito: A Revival
Though forgotten few decades after its premiere especially because of it was perceived as an anachronism, La clemenza di Tito reappeared in the Fifties with a couple of (quite sceptical) recordings and then it was regularly though not frequently recorded again. In the last years, however, the Clemenze has begun to multiply. Only one year ago, Jérèmie Rhôrer and Le Cercle de l’Harmonie released a recording of this opera. The year before, another Clemenza was recorded by Alessandro de Marchi and the Academia Montis Regalis. If this trend remains unchanged, it is very likely that others will follow. On the whole, the present recording is one of those that deserves to be hold in due consideration, although, as in every recording, it has its downsides next to many, valuable strong points.
Differently from the recordings of Le nozze di Figaro and of Die Entführung aus dem Serail, this time I had a quite positive impression of Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s conduction. Even though the Canadian conductor does not stand out for his original approach and sometimes he broaden the tempos, his conduction is consistent. He stresses the significant passages with exactitude and surrounds the singers with the right atmosphere.
Rolando Villazon (Tito)
The main source of interest of this Tito is of course Rolando Villazon, not only because he sings the title role, but also because he is the mastermind of the entire project. And yet, as much as his commitment is commendable, the fact remains that he is not who he used to be. Though he is still able to sing with some smoothness and that this time (differently from the Entführung) he does not push the voice too much, his intonation is far from being perfect and is quite wobbling. Moreover, his registers do not connect smoothly and his high notes seem detached from the rest of his voice. Overall, it seems that his voice still retains some strength, but that it has lost its mainstay.
Marina Rebeka (Vitellia)
Marina Rebeka is, in my opinion, one of the best sopranos of her generation. Her recording of Luisa Miller has been released just few month before Clemenza, and she was extremely convincing in the title role. In Clemenza, she replaced Sonya Yoncheva as Vitellia after the Bulgarian soprano cancelled two performances.
Rebeka’s voice is pure and bright as a sunny day, and her outstanding musicianship is out of question. She sings the role of Vitellia with stylishness above everything else, but she is equally outstanding for her dramatic command. Without being tasteless or exaggerated, she is able to stress the right word to reveal the intensity of Vitellia’s feelings. While her high notes are always limpid and powerful, her low register is quite sound too. Arias as Deh, se piacer mi vuoi or Non più di fiori give the perfect idea of her vocal agility.
Joyce DiDonato (Sesto)
After being Elvira for this same Mozart project in 2011 and having recorded Vitellia’s aria Non più di fiori in her solo album Diva, Divo, Joyce DiDonato joins the cast of this Clemenza as Sesto, Tito’s friend. As Rebeka, DiDonato too is a singer who reveals her energy next to her incredible virtuosity. She characterizes Sesto with subtle psychological nuances that are absolutely necessary to a multifaceted character torn between friendship and love. Sesto’s anxiety, wavering, but also a kind of sweetness that is DiDonato’s distinguishing mark, are perfectly and fully depicted. These features are embellished by DiDonato’s vocal acrobatics. The best sample is definitely the mesmerizing finale of Parto, ma tu ben mio.
The Other Singers
Regula Mühlemann (Servilia) is the third singer of this Clemenza who knows how to combine theatrical command and excellent vocal means. Her Servilia is a delicate woman, portrayed thanks to Mühlemann’s graceful, moving and dazzling singing. Tara Erraught (Annio) is equally fine. She combines a beautiful voice and an excellent technique. Moreover, the blend of Mühlemann and Erraught’s voices is perfect in their wonderful duet Ah perdona al primo affetto.
Finally, even though Publio has just one aria, Adam Plachetka makes it absolutely noteworthy for the elegance and richness of his voice, which gives to his character much more relevance than he usually has.