The let’s all wear wigs Clemenza Act I (Drottningholm, 1988)
- Tito: Stefan Dahlberg
- Vitellia: Anita Soldh
- Sesto: Lani Poulson
- Annio: Maria Hoglind
- Servilia: Pia-Marie Nilsson
- Publio: Jerker Arvidson
Conductor: Arnold Ostmann | Chorus and Orchestra of the Drottningholm Theatre, 1988
Oh, dear lord, another Clemenza? It’s hardly been a month since the last one… What’s this, you might be wondering, Clemenza Central? Well, pretty much. When in doubt, talk about another Tito production is my motto. Besides, I’ve been looking for a complete video of this recording for a while. Thankfully somebody posted it recently. Grazie mille and on we go!
The conductor and the orchestra have all dressed up for the occasion – the occasion being the September 1791 premiere of Clemenza: they all wear period costume. Blimey. Judging by the curtain, which looks like a screen from 1791, and considering that the Drottningholm Theater was probably around back then, I wager even the audience is decked up in similar attire. The video editing during the brisk and breezy overture is fresh, with the camera taking some unusual angles and focusing on memorable looking orchestra members. Nice touch.
Come ti piace imponi: this Vitellia is wasting no time. She whips out the dagger during the second sai ch’il m’usurpa il regno. She should be careful, though, as her Sesto is terribly jumpy and should be banned from running with daggers. He almost slashes her arm! Imagine if he accidentally killed Vitellia? Webern opera length.
The singing isn’t bad. Sesto looks mad as a badger, mille affetti insieme battling in his chest must mean just trying to hold back from running off to stab someone, anyone. Vitellia is cool and calculated and, dare I say, rather pleased with herself. Well, if she trusts that Sesto then she’s the most self assured woman I’ve ever seen.
Annio dashes out from Tito’s morning party, happy as a lark that Berenice has left once and for all. Yay! The Wicked Witch of
West East is gone, refreshments at Tito’s, everyone is invited (but apparently not Vitellia). Sesto loves Annio’s enthusiasm so much he misses every occasion to hide the dagger. Annio is too cheerful to notice Sesto’s hands are conspicuously behind his back.
Deh, se piacer mi vuoi: Vitellia is in control. She smoothly retrieves the dagger and keeps a tight leash on this quicksilver Sesto by alternatively kissing and shoving him away. Hey, I like her! Well, done. Sesto continues to look stuck between an orgasm and a heart attack. His overacting is quite distracting but at least he’s hot to look at 😉 There could be more oomph in Vitellia’s singing but it matches the breezy conducting and the drama is well served.
Sesto is left confused by her hot/cold behaviour but amico Annio comes back to cheer him up. Let’s become brothers-in-law, says he. Let’s! answers Sesto and they sing Deh, prendi un dolce amplesso as if without a care in the world. Thank goodness for BFFs, they bring your blood pressure down.
A bunch of vassals present tribute to the BFFs, which highlights their status at the Roman court. I like this bit in the libretto and am glad when the production keeps it in. The march and then Serbate dei custodi is brisk, maybe a bit too much so.
Publio looks like he was promoted from the Finance Department, far from the creepy schemers of nowadays. Also as per the original libretto, Annio gets to kiss some major arse alongside by suggesting the bountiful tribute be used to build a temple to Tito. He’s as cheerful and bright eyed as usual. The vassals shove their tribute in Tito’s face. He’s unusually camp and soulful and empathetic. He’d prefer it if the tribute went into the Vesuvius and Other Suburbs Relief Fund. Everybody is amazed by his generosity. Would you refuse it if your subjects built a temple to you? Orgasmic Sesto is thinking that’s my Tito!
Whilst the march reprises the vassals retire and Tito sheds his formal Imperial attire. He wants to chill out with his homies Sesto and Annio. Promptly, a throne springs out of the floor. Tito doesn’t mince words. He immediately lets Sesto know about his new plans: he will bring his BFF closer by marrying his very virtuous sister. Whoa, Servilia? asks Sesto. That one, answers Tito. Got any others? thinks Annio, cos I could really use a spare one just about now. Sesto is again about to pop a vein. Good friend that he is, Annio saves him. Tito, he says, your generosity is so great that Sesto is tongue-tied and oh, so modest. Of course he is overjoyed! And, btw, you’ve got amazing taste in Roman ladies. Servilia is the bee’s knees, Scout’s honour. She’ll make a smashing Empress. His strength of character is enviable, he still seems cheerful. Word, says Tito. I grant you the honour of bringing her the good news.
Del piu sublime soglio: Tito looks like he’d really want to marry Sesto if he could, which is a detail I think we all know and love1. He has this look in his eyes, I don’t know if lustful is the right word, or rather oh, Sesto, my day is not complete until I lavish some new favour upon you2. Sesto feels really bad for Annio, who squares his shoulders in a manly manner as if to say I’ll be fine, no, really, I will. There’s a lot of such communication in this production. It’s not bad, I like it when stage directors are thorough. Their BFF reassuring looks like it’s going behind Tito’s singing about his own generosity, which brings out the three-way-ness that pervades this opera. Oh, yea, the singing: soulful Tito.