Why is Tito usually so much older than Sesto? and other musings

Yesterday I had a short exchange on this subject with Kate V. and it seems it got stuck in my head before the performance 😉 Here are some things that occurred to me only whilst seeing it again in the house (says something about my usual attention span):

on the subject of age: it works for Sesto to be/look significantly younger, especially when the production is based on the angle of Tito missing those more innocent times. In this case = absolutely. I was thinking about Sesto’s rock, too, which is located right under Tito’s chair/throne. There is a reason why it’s there and not across the stage, which would also make sense.

burying the magpie (during Del piu sublime soglio):

  • shows us that Tito and Sesto are working on their issues together
  • Tito hasn’t forgotten but has forgiven Sesto, so he’s not faking his goodness
  • Sesto is aware of his own nature and is actively trying to become a better person

amicitia vs il primo amor: Glyndebourne translated il primo amor in Deh, per questo as “the first friendship”. During the opera (ie, other than in this aria) their relationship is called amicitia, whereas Annio and Servilia always refer to theirs as il primo amor. What I take from this is that Tito and Sesto’s friendship is of a more intense kind than usual friendship (though not necessary gay as we understand it today). Also considering it’s only called amor during an aria, it’s probably not something that’s so much put into words as felt.

questo cor and altro cor: Sesto refers to questo cor in Deh, per questo (not cor 😉 ) and immediately on its heels Tito asks for (un) altro cor in Se all’impero. I like that link of ideas and I also like how at the end all the people who turn out to share questo cor are downstairs in the reeds whereas the bureaucrats are upstairs in the manmade structure1.

ah, sventurato!: says Publio, upon hearing from Tito that Sesto’s fate is decided (right before Se all’impero). I’ve always taken it to refer to Sesto but after yesterday’s performance it hit me that Publio is talking about Tito because he knows Tito2 and he also knows what the mob wants (not merciful leaders, despite professing otherwise).

the reeds: they pop right out of their stands, if you look closely when Tito is harvesting them (Tu fosti tradito).


  1. I like designer Christian Schmidt’s comments on how the structure seems to have dropped from the sky in that originally idyllic landscape. It’s a good metaphor for adult life, with its inherent rigidity and hypocrisy invading the simpler, more direct and more imaginative world of childhood. 
  2. isn’t he singing what Tito feels during Quello di Tito e il volto? He’s clearly aware of Tito’s struggles. 
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About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on August 12, 2017, in 1001 musings on la clemenza di tito, favourite opera productions, glyndebourne, mozart. Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. Seems like 2017 is the year of Tito. You lucky Europeans still have at least one more chance to see it this year, at the Paris Opera: https://www.operadeparis.fr/en/season-17-18/opera/la-clemence-de-titus

    Certain dates have Ramón Vargas as Tito and Stéphanie d’Oustrac as Sesto. I sure hope it gets streamed or released for cinema! Saw those two in The Tales of Hoffmann in cinema last March. Besides being quite capable singers, that cast could lessen the visual “age gap” issue between Titus and Sesto.

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    • Have you seen the trailer? Publio looks like Dracula 🙂 this would be a good opportunity to see Vargas but I don’t quite like the look of the production…

      Are you attending/ have you attended yet any of the Aspen dates? Please let me me know how it went 🙂

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      • I really enjoyed it! Maybe that’s at least partly because it was the first live performance I’ve seen of Tito. The Wheeler Opera House is a sweet, small venue. When the overture started, I was grinning from ear to ear. The conductor was Jane Glover. She’s British; have you heard of her?

        Setting and costumes were ancient Rome. Simple set: primarily a few rows of flats with arched doorways, and two of those stone benches you see in gardens, one on each side of downstage. A scene in Act II had a desk for Tito.

        The singers were all good, but I liked Sesto best, also visually. Her name is Hannah Ludwig; I won’t be surprised if her career goes very well in the next few years. She received thunderous applause after Parto, and the Aspen audiences are pretty sophisticated. Annio looked too young, like middle teens. Publio had a fine voice, but no stage presence.

        The only major complaint about this production is that there were 4 or 5 “men in black” on stage the entire time. In addition to the clothing, they had black nylon stockings over their heads so you couldn’t see faces… looked like burglars or bank robbers or terrorists. And they were loitering around the set or peering around archways watching the action, looking like peeping toms. Not only bizarre and distracting, but also creepy. Their function was stage hands, moving flats back and forth in full view. I suppose there was also some symbolism intended, but it escaped me. I think it was really just lazy directing and stage management.

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        • Thanks a lot for the details! I’m very glad you enjoyed yourself for your first Tito. I hope we can hear Ludwig soon around here as well, great Sestos are always a delight. I wish her all the luck. Not sure I’ve heard of Glover.

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    • ps: one has to commend Paris for running two concurrent Tito productions! Now that’s dedication 😀

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  2. I watched that video, but it must be from an older production. The copyright date at the end of the clip says 2013, and if you view it at YouTube.com, the information below the video frame says “Extrait de la saison 2013/2014.” Yes, that Publio is strange; I was thinking he looks like a character out of Star Trek!
    I’m going to the performance in Aspen next Saturday, 8/19. The cast will be students, of course, but exceptional students. Many opera A-listers got started in programs like this, and pro’s (e.g., Renée Fleming) come to teach Master Class workshops.
    What is the production running concurrently with the Paris Opera’s? There’s a concert version at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on September 15. D’Oustrac is Sesto in that, too, and Jeanine De Bique is Annio. Of all the cast in the Salzburg production, I was most impressed with her… and she’s a soprano!

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    • The other production is from Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, the one set in the ’40s that had Kate Lindsey, Gauvin and Streit.

      I hope you enjoy the Aspen production, sometimes students really impress you.

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  3. Duh… of course the Paris Opera could produce the same staging as in the video. I hadn’t thought of that when I posted my previous comment. Hope not; I don’t like the looks of it, either. It’s only a few years old; would they recycle it so soon?

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    • I’m sure it’ll be the same one, since they advertise the trailer/pictures. I guess there are merits but I kind of don’t like the Napoleonian feel even in the Aix one. That’s why the TCE was better, it left that behind.

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  4. If Sesto was a tenor (like Mozart planned???) the age difference might not be so obvious. :p

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  5. Based only on images (sorry didn’t read all the reviews), why are they all in the reeds and grass all the time, and are they indeed spending the entire opera there?

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