MOZART’S hurriedly written late opera seria, La clemenza di Tito, is the perfect vehicle for a student cast and orchestra.
La Clemenza di Tito - New Athenaeum Theatre, Glasgow
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On the one hand, its protracted recitative, punctuated with dexterous, psychological arias, are hardened tests of the voice and the Mozartian style. On the other hand, the opera lends itself to simplicity of production, enabling young singers to focus on the exacting musical delivery.
That’s not to say director Ashley Dean’s clean, simple grey-suited approach to staging this Royal Conservatoire of Scotland production or Cordelia Chisholm’s barebones design – a monochrome Classical Roman space with chunky, man size R-O-M-A letters its only props – lacked impact. It’s a strangely incongruous tale – Tito proposes marriage to three different women in the course of a day – so such visual stability is a bonus.
As for the musical challenge, how invigorating to witness such confidence among the well-integrated cast, orchestra and chorus under Tim Dean’s direction, especially in the ensemble climaxes to both acts.
Sure, the recits occasionally lacked insistence, the physical demands bred odd lapses in intonation, and the orchestra’s generally exuberant, stylish delivery met with brief moments of instability.
But little of that ultimately detracted from the passionate womanly presence of Ragnheidur Óladóttir as Vitellia, the glowing high points of Ayaka Tanimoto’s Sesto, Luperci de Souza’s soft-grained composure as Tito, Arshak Kuzikyan’s authoritative Publio, a stylistically exciting Hazel McBain as Servilia, and Deborah Ruiz-Kordova’s reliable Annio. A challenge well met.