Mackerras’ very polite Clemenza
- Tito: Rainer Trost
- Vitellia: Hillevi Martinpelto
- Sesto: Magdalena Kozena
- Annio: Christine Rice
- Serivllia: Lisa Milne
- Publio: John Relyea
Conductor: Charles Mackerras | Scottish Chamber Orchestra
I recently joined the (not so local) library with the express desire to listen to (and rip) CDs for which I wouldn’t normally shell out money but would still like to hear. The only recording of La clemenza di Tito they had was this. I must listen to every recording of Clemenza I come across, the pull is too strong to resist. Plus I think Kozena is a pleasant and sincere singer, if not terribly exciting.
There isn’t anything glaringly wrong with this. Ok, maybe Rainer Trost’s on-the-brink-of-tears coloratura made me chuckle during his Se all’impero, but I’m funny in that I like a very manly Tito. Can’t fault Mackerras too much, the elegance of Mozart’s score is well served, although nothing new and interesting is revealed. It is a beautiful score and there is always reason to listen for just that.
But! Everybody sounds so damn well behaved. I’ve never heard such a gentle, airy-fairy Vitellia as Martinpelto’s in my life. Anybody who wasn’t acquainted with the story would be shocked to learn what she’s up to. Which might be just as well, because Kozena doesn’t make for a compelling Sesto1. She does wistfulness beautifully, but I’m not sure what Sesto is melancholic about when Vitellia sounds so mild-mannered. The two of them sound like vaguely blase siblings rather than homicidal lovers. Add to that a weepy Tito, and you’ve got a recording that packs as much dramatic punch as a sock (but there’s always someone out there who argues that Mozart should not be interpreted in a dramatic way, and that someone will love this recording). Says something that my favourite moment on it is John Relyea’s muscular Tardi s’avvede, although Christine Rice’s very serious Tu fosti tradito ain’t bad either and neither is Lisa Milne’s S’altro che lagrime. Bottom line: it’s pleasant and inoffensive and I’ve listened to it way more often than to Colin Davis’ version with Janet Baker (one cold bitch of a Vitellia if ever there was one! and also rather unpleasant to these ears).
When was the last time you listened to Clemenza for that cracking Tardi s’avvede? That isn’t such a nutty idea. When I read Mozart’s Letters I was dismayed to see precious nothing about my favourite porcheria. This is why I made up my own version about how it was written. If you’ve heard other operas composed on this stalwart libretto you know that they all share a number of arias: Mozart didn’t have to work so hard at it, just modernise it a bit (or a lot, the other versions sound really dusty and old fashioned compared to his) and add/subtract a couple of (important) things. My point is, some of the ariettas and duettinos (such as Tardi and Deh, prendi un dolce amplesso) were probably written in between lunch courses at the inn but they are some of the best moments. The man could write a badass tunettino, that’s for sure.
- Foppy Sestos is (are?) one of my biggest pet peeves, but that’s for another post. ↩