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Mozart’s ‘La Clemenza di Tito,’ performance transmitted live to FLC campus

Photo courtesy Charles Leslie
The Met: Live in HD continues its screening of live performances in high definition in the Vallecito Room of the Fort Lewis College Student Union on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 10:55 a.m. with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito.”

By Charles Leslie
Special to The PREVIEW

The Met: Live in HD continues its screening of live performances in high definition in the Vallecito Room of the Fort Lewis College Student Union on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 10:55 a.m. with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus).”

The Met: Live in HD is presented by the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.

“La Clemenza di Tito,” Mozart’s final Italian opera, is a rarely seen classic about a Roman emperor who is the subject of a vengeful woman’s assassination scheme. The opera comes to Live in HD screens for the first time.

Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s classic Met production presents the opera as it might have been seen in Mozart’s time, with stylized settings suggesting a historic vision of ancient Rome. Baroque specialist Harry Bicket (last season’s Rodelinda) leads the opera, which includes one of Mozart’s most famous arias, Sesto’s wrenching “Parto, parto.”

The cast features Eiona Garanea (2010’s “Carmen”) in the trousers role of Sesto, a young nobleman in love with the passionate Vitellia performed by Barbara Frittoli (Donna Elvira in last season’s “Don Giovanni”). Giuseppe Filianoti sings the role of the emperor Tito, with Lucy Crowe (in her Met debut) and Kate Lindsey (Nicklausse in 2009’s “Les Contes d’Hoffmann”) as the young lovers Servilia and Annio.

The “magic” of The Met: Live in HD events is that the performances are delivered 100 percent live via satellite. Audiences throughout the world experience the production at the same time as the audience sitting in the Metropolitan Opera itself. Equipment installed in FLC’s Vallecito Room during the Student Union’s recent renovation meets The Met’s high broadcast standard requirements.

.The remaining 2012-2013 program is:

• Dec. 8 — “Un Ballo in Maschera” (Verdi).

• Dec. 15 — “Aida” (Verdi).

• Jan. 5 — “Les Troyens” (Berlioz).

• Jan. 19 ––Maria Stuarda (Donizetti.

• Feb. 16 — “Rigoletto” (Verdi).

• March 2 — “Parsifal” (Wagner).

• March 16 — “Francesca da Rimini” (Zandonai).

• April 27 — “Giulio Cesare” (Handel).

Advance tickets for individual shows — $25 ($23 for seniors, students, children and Met members) — are available online at www.durangoconcerts.com or by calling 247-7657. All sales final.

Tickets will also be available on the morning of each performance, one hour in advance of show time, at the FLC Student Union.

Synopsis: ‘La Clemenza di Tito’

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Libretto by Caterino Mazzolà, after Pietro Metastasio.

World premiere: Prague, National Theater (now Estates Theater), Sept. 6, 1791.

Act I

Rome, first century AD. The Roman emperor Tito is in love with Berenice, daughter of the king of Judea. Vitellia, the former emperor’s daughter, feels that she should hold the throne herself and asks her young admirer Sesto to assassinate Tito. Though he is a close friend of the emperor, Sesto will do anything to please Vitellia, so he agrees. When Sesto’s friend Annio tells him that Tito, for reasons of state, will not marry Berenice, Vitellia becomes hopeful again and asks Sesto to put off the assassination plot. Annio reminds Sesto of his own wish to marry Sesto’s sister Servilia. The two men affirm their friendship.

At the forum, the Romans praise Tito. The emperor tells Annio and Sesto that since he has to take a Roman wife he intends to marry Servilia. Diplomatically, Annio assures Tito that he welcomes his decision. Tito declares that the only joy of power lies in the opportunity to help others. When Annio tells Servilia of the emperor’s intentions, she assures him of her love.

In the imperial palace, Tito explains his philosophy of forgiveness to Publio, the captain of the guard. Servilia enters and confesses to the emperor that she has already agreed to marry Annio. Tito thanks her for her honesty and says he will not marry her against her wishes. Vitellia, unaware that Tito has changed his mind, furiously insults Servilia and asks Sesto to kill the emperor at once. He assures her that her wish is his command. After he has left, Publio and Annio tell Vitellia that Tito has decided to choose her as his wife. Vitellia desperately tries to stop Sesto but realizes it is too late.

Sesto has launched the conspiracy and set fire to the Capitol. Full of shame, he runs into Annio, evades his questions and rushes off. Servilia appears, then Publio, and finally Vitellia. They are all searching for Sesto and believe that Tito has died. Sesto returns, looking for a place to hide. He is about to confess his crime but is silenced by Vitellia.

Act II

In the palace, Annio tells Sesto that the emperor is still alive. When Sesto confesses his assassination attempt but refuses to give any reason, Annio advises him to admit everything to Tito and hope for forgiveness. Vitellia rushes in, begging Sesto to flee, but she is too late: a fellow conspirator has betrayed him, and Publio enters with soldiers to arrest him. Sesto asks Vitellia to remember his love.

The Roman people are thankful that the emperor has survived. Tito struggles to understand the conspirators’ motives and doubts Sesto’s disloyalty. Publio warns him against being too trusting. When it is announced that Sesto has confessed and been sentenced to death by the Senate, Annio asks Tito to consider the case compassionately. The emperor will not sign the death decree until he has had the chance to question Sesto himself. Alone with Tito, Sesto assures him that he did not want the throne for himself, but he hesitates to implicate Vitellia. Tito, not satisfied with this explanation, dismisses him. Sesto asks Tito to remember their friendship and is led off. The emperor signs the decree, then tears it up: he cannot become a tyrant and execute a friend. He cries out to the gods, saying that if they want a cruel ruler, they have to take away his human heart. Servilia and Annio beg Vitellia to help save Sesto. She realizes that she must confess her crime rather than accept the throne at the price of Sesto’s life.

In a public square, Tito is about to pronounce Sesto’s sentence, when Vitellia appears and admits that she alone is responsible for the assassination attempt. The bewildered emperor explains that his intention was to forgive Sesto anyway. He finally decides to pardon all the conspirators. The Roman people praise Tito for his kindness and ask the gods to grant him a long life.

This story was posted on November 28, 2012.