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Antonio Caldara’s La clemenza di Tito

It’s 27 January again, but instead of a Mozart post let’s look at something that makes Mozart look about 1m times better. Not that his legacy needs my help…

Given the continuous popularity of my post on Caldara and Hasse Vò disperato a morte, I thought an entry entirely devoted to Caldara’s take on this work might make a nice change. That it took me almost 2 years to complete it is another thing…

Tito: Mya Fracassini 
Vitellia: Ornella Pratesi
Sesto: Eleonora Contucci
Annio: Patrizia Zanardi
Servillia: Lucrezia Raffaelli
Publio: Aurio Tomicich
Conductor: Sergio Balestracci
Orchestra della Stagione Armonica | Coro della Camerata Polifonica Viterbese (2010)

This is the first incarnation of Tito, premiering on 4 November 1734. It’s very much of its time and this recording sounds faithful to that time, for better or worse.

Will it float?

Different strokes: Vò disperato a morte (Caldara, Hasse)

A while ago I visited a couple of Clemenza arias written by Galuppi and Gluck. In hindsight I think I was a bit tough on these fine composers. Or maybe I’m more generous today, the third fine Spring-like day we’ve had around here. Either way, here we are with Caldara and Hasse’s take on that not so chipper moment when Sesto has to face the friend he was ready to murder.

Caldara: Caldara is trying to illustrate anguish but to me it sounds very bouncy. On the other hand I like it best out of the other Clemenza arias I heard from the same recording so Caldara was onto something.

Hasse: Gotta give it to Herr Hasse, that was by far the best of the bunch; brilliant, spot on, never overstaying its welcome, in fact, Baroque-perfect. Surely perfect before Wolfie developed his free-form Deh, per questo instante solo, which is maybe not so much better per se but a sign of how times had changed. It might be unfair to this finely crafted Baroque piece to say Deh, per questo instante solo leaves it in the dust. It’s just that there’s more character in Wolfie’s effort. The mood is more complex and it ends with a climax whereas Vo simply is a climax, although by Baroque standards there was nothing wrong with that.

To be fair on Wolfie’s predecessors, they had to work with Metastasio original lyrics, which are very simple and to the point:

Vo disperato a morte (dejectedly I accept my death)
ne perdo gia costanza (my courage is starting to desert me)
a vista del morir. (at the thought of death)
Funesta la mia sorte (my fate is terrible)
la sola rimembranza (I keep wondering)
ch’io te potei tradir. (how I could betray you)

Mazzola’s reworking brings an interesting subtle twist. Mazzola’s Sesto isn’t simply self flagellating. Before he goes into that he reminds Tito of the good ol’ days and Mozart grants him gentle, nostalgic, serene even music sure to make Tito shed a tear or two. Clever chap, eh? In fact, the progression of his “confession of guilt” is this: Hey, buddy, remember how tight we was? It’s true I betrayed you but you would be less harsh on me if you saw how horribly sorry I am about the whole situation (don’t ask for an explanation, just look at this distraught face and remember the Sesto you know and love). I wouldn’t insult you by asking you to forgive me, in fact please put me out of my misery because I’m in such anguish over the fact that I could betray you, my BFF. Keen psychologist, that Sesto, and just a tad manipulative.