The let’s all wear wigs Clemenza Act II (Drottningholm, 1988)

  • Tito: Stefan Dahlberg 
  • Vitellia: Anita Soldh
  • Sesto: Lani Poulson
  • Annio: Maria Hoglind
  • Servillia: Pia-Marie Nilsson
  • Publio: Jerker Arvidson

Conductor: Arnold Ostmann | Chorus and Orchestra of the Drottningholm Theatre, 1988

Act II

The MC calls the audience to attention.

Sesto is all packed to go and has with him a rectangular parcel tied with string which might be a funny suitcase. Annio comes with the good news: Tito is alive! Sesto is like gosh, I don’t know what I am happier for: that Tito is alive or that you brought me some good news on this dreadful day. Then he catches himself: it can’t be, I stabbed someone. Annio urges him to go to Tito pronto. Sesto is ashamed to face Tito after having betrayed him. He realises too late that he spoke aloud. Annio gets his own heart attack moment. What are you saying, buddy?! Orgasm meets heart attack face returns for Sesto. It’s actually not as overacted as before, plus it kinda fits the moment. He half-assedly admits to his betrayal, blaming it on boogie. Annio is like dear lord, you what? Sesto says yea, I suck which is why I must skiddadle. Annio says wait, we can work this out. Go to Tito and grovel a bit, he’ll understand. He spent a long time in Judea, he knows all about repentance. He’s so happy-clappy, I want to deck him.

Torna di Tito a lato: Sesto cries and it’s the first time I feel for him. Yea, sucks being stuck with a paragon of virtue, a forgiveness addict and a woman who uses you to advance her political ambitions. More than any Annio I’ve seen so far this one is the equivalent to the little angel on your shoulder. Annio sings very well and it goes with the acting.

Sesto still isn’t sure what to do. His self doubt materialises little devil on shoulder Vitellia who tells him to high-tail post haste. Sesto says he would never betray her. She forsees his falling for Tito’s goodness. I’m not so happy with how Vitellia acted this scene. She needs to look more panicked yet she is still the sarcastic and bossy bitch of before. Sesto fares better at expressing the erotic hold she still has on him and a bit of verbal heroism. It’s too late, though. Publio shows up with the guards and asks for his sword. He’s still far from menacing. Sesto doesn’t look very handy with his sword, either. He hands it in rather meekly. Publio also takes his parcel/suitcase as evidence. Vitellia starts to panic. Sesto seems annoyed as he says alfin, tirana… and maybe a bit relieved.

Se al volto: Vitellia’s exquisite acting chops return for Sesto’s plea. As the trio starts she looks almost heartbroken. It’s as if she is surprised at herself for caring about what happens to Sesto. Her self-assurance is weakened still self preservation reigns. As Sesto sings a pained adio she instincively distances herself from him, lest Publio get any ideas about what she and Sesto are really talking about. But when she says quel crudelta! it’s nicely ambiguous whether she’s talking about Publio’s accusation or whether she’s trying to apologise to Sesto for the mess she got him in. Sesto has gone back to his wide-eyed acting when around Vitellia but his rammenta qui t’adora gets Vitellia to steel herself and mechanically deliver her mi lacerano il core/ rimorso, orror, spavento. It’s really effective in showing her trying to emotionally flee the situation. In the end she decides to look out for number one and willingly gives him up to his fate. That annoys Sesto so much he walks himself to the dungeon. Annoyed Sesto…? Or maybe just the direction allowing him some balls.

This is another interesting trio were the characters say different things to different tunes at the same time. Publio – although he doesn’t look like it – has caught on to what’s been going on and is feeling sorry for Sesto but there’s nothing he can do as he is an upholder of justice. Sesto, perhaps instinctively, is appealing to people’s emotions as a last resort. He’s being terribly romantic and passive-aggressive at the same time in comparing the gentle breeze to his dying breath. It’s like saying hey, bitch, Imma haunt you from the grave for what you’ve done to me – but in a more I loved you so much and you didn’t give a shit kind of way. He can’t really hate her but he’s hurt to the core. The singing is ok (Publio) to very good. It’s not all that expressive but it’s satifyingly pleasant and coupled with the excellent stage direction and Vitellia’s acting it adds up to a very entertaining scene.

We’re in Tito’s budoir now. He’s worried and then gutted when Publio confirms Sesto’s guilt. His people – whoever they are, they look like his extended family – lay their hands on him, presumably to give him strength. What they sing is praise the lords for keeping Tito away from harm. It looks like a photo op, with Tito hugging children and everybody else arranged in adoring poses.

After the PR moment Tito is left alone with Publio and he agonises over Sesto’s alleged guilt. It’s Publio’s moment in the limelight. Tardi s’avvede is quick and pleasant but not particularly memorable. And what would make this short aria memorable, you might ask yourself. To start with, a slower pace then more gravitas in the voice. Ostmann keeps it brisk, which is coherent with the rest and it’s likely very Mozartean. But as I said on a different occasion, we like what we like. Arvidson’s voice is too bright and he’s not bringing out anything in particular. It sounds nice and that’s that.

Tito is anxious for somebody to tell him Sesto is innocent. Amico Annio shows up on cue and for once he looks other than chipper. The truth is tough on Tito and he wants Annio to leave but Annio stands his ground and pleads for his BFF/brother-in-law. Tu fosti tradito is sung in a direct and understated manner that I liked, not too earnest or too agitated, in keeping with Annio’s bright and hopeful character. Although his general cheerfulness annoys me a little, singing-wise Hoglind is one of my favourite Annios.

Publio thinks it’s high time Tito stopped faffing but Tito orders Sesto to be brought to him before he signs the death sentence. His moment with Sesto is pretty moving. I like Dahlberg’s Tito; he’s the kind of ruler that means well even though he might not understand others’ motivations. I don’t feel him as an isolated ruler, or at least this angle does not bother him. He is preoccupied with doing good now that he is in the position to do so. He also obviously has some very personal reasons for caring about Sesto.

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About dehggial

opera lover with a predilection for Mozart and Baroque

Posted on March 13, 2014, in 1001 musings on la clemenza di tito, mozart and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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