The Cirque du Soleil La clemenza di Tito (Munich, 15 February 2014)
- Tito: Toby Spence
- Vitellia: Kristine Opolais
- Sesto: Tara Erraught
- Annio: Angela Brower
- Servillia: Hanna-Elisabeth Muller
- Publio: Tareq Nazmi
Conductor: Kirill Petrenko | Director: Jan Bosse | Costumes: Victoria Behr
Bayerisches Staatsorchester | The Chorus of Bayerische Staatsoper
“Opolais doesn’t seem to be known for Mozart but based on the single clip I heard I am rooting for her to be a good Vitellia, because that voice sounds like it could be badass. […] The others sound fresh as well. It’s getting exciting. Now let’s hope it’s not a wigfest.”
That was what I wrote last month. Wouldn’t you know, I was right: vocally Opolais was bang on. On the other hand, it was a wigfest only not quite.
But let’s start with the beginning. As I was saying earlier, I bought a new laptop yesterday. I thought I was all set but nope, I forgot to get flash. As the time approached, I kept trying to get on but got no video. At length I realised my mistake. So now I was getting video on the trailer but where the hell was the actual livestream? Last time I watched one from Bayerische Staatsoper I had no problems but for the life of me I could not remember details. And of course I had that link saved on my now defunct laptop. So I just looked it up online and lo, there it was. The whole silliness cost me the overture and the Ma che, sempre l’istesso recit. As I tuned in they had just started Come ti piace, imponi. That was ok, I could work with that.
Vocally, Opolais and Erraught were doing jolly well. That gave me the opportunity to look around, for there was a lot to look and take in, which is why I listed the director and the costume designer. The show was a proper extravaganza:
The bleachers/Colosseum. As can be seen in the above screenshot taken during the Act I finale, the design of the Nationaltheater is cleverly used by the stage designer to make the stage look like an extension of the theatre and break the fourth wall. Everybody’s in on it, the public and the orchestra, not just the singers. That’s a neat way of making a not so intimate setting for a most intimate opera such as this appear less impersonal1.
Vitellia’s costume. Vitellia wore a huge light-yellow tulle dress that looked like an oyster. On top of her head they fastened a very tall light purple wig that would have done Marge Simpson2 proud. She looked like cotton candy – melts in your mouth and gets your hands sticky, eh? I’d call her Candyfloss Queen but I think she’d just squash me, so I’ll keep calling her Vitellia.
Sesto’s costume. Paired with that giant Vitellia was a tiny Sesto in a stylish tailored suit3 with shoulder pads and high heels. He had girly 1920s hair and a pencil mustache. I guess he’s a bit of a gender-bender? Would make sense, so let’s call him Torture Garden Sesto. Also, Erraught’s physique is such that she will never look manly so I guess they said what the hell and did away with even trying.
Annio’s costume. Talk about doing away with the suggestion of manliness – Annio had fantasy film long, flowing carrot-red hair and a jacket that made me think he must’ve parked his unicorn just outside the Campidoglio. But Annio is that kind of unflinchingly upright chap. Henceforth known as Unicorn boy.
Servillia’s costume. Servillia looked like a lolipop in an 18th century inspired fantasy of a hot pink number with elaborately creased sleeves. She also had Marge-like hair (yellow), so I think she was Vitellia Jr. or Lolipop girl.
Publio’s costume. Well I’ll be, if it wasn’t a cross between Rasputin4 and Dracula. He wore a black robe and put on an ominous face. Most importantly, he was way taller than Sesto (heels included). Dracsputin.
Tito’s costume. Tito wore a simple, flowing white robe which looked like a very posh nightgown. He resembled a blond Jesus in his slow, deliberate and gentle gestures as well. Both are the forgiving type. Buddy Jesus it is.
So now you know this production is not taking itself awfully seriously but is using costumes to make witty comments on who these characters are supposed to be. It’s not the first production that’s taking the mickey out of ye stuffee ol’ Tito so it’s not a complete shocker. With Clemenza you either go deep and plumb some serious psychological issues or you take the Cirque du Soleil route and sing merrily on a unicycle whilst juggling little people – with your bustle.