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Mozart;Wolfgang Amadeus La Cle


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Amazon.com: 8 reviews
53 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Mozart's final opera expertly performed March 5 2006
By Michael Birman - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Last of Mozart's operas to be composed (it was commissioned for the coronation of Leopold II in Prague and premiered there at the National Theater on September 6, 1791) and enormously popular in the 19th Century, the 20th Century saw its popularity wane until today few have heard this wonderful Opera Seria. With text by Caterino Mazzola adapted from a libretto written in 1734 by Pietro Metastasio, La Clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus) may be undergoing serious reappraisal because the number of performances and recordings have dramatically increased. There is an obvious reason for this: Mozart's music is superb and the message of the occasionally sententious libretto (wisdom and mercy as desirable traits in a ruler) is certainly timely. The long-held myth that Mozart dashed off this opera in 18 days and let his assistants write the weak recitatives is only partially correct. Evidence has accrued that Mozart had been thinking about this "real opera" since the project was first broached by the impresario Domenico Guardasoni in the spring of 1789 when Mozart was in Prague. And Mozart meant to write a real opera; with emotional impact and dramatic thrust, not a turgid opera seria as an exercise in classical stasis. He knew the old genre was dead. His da Ponte operas had helped kill it. The recitatives are written by others, perhaps Sussmayr, and they are weaker than in Mozart's other more popular works. But they're not terrible. They propel the story forward with an economy of means that allows this opera to run a shade over 2 hours. That makes Clemenza the fleetest of Mozart's major operas so there's hardly enough time to snooze.

You definitely won't sleep through this stunningly designed production. The Set and Costume (and Lighting) Designer Karl-Ernst Herrmann has fashioned a visual metaphor for 3 different time periods: ancient Rome, the era of "Sturm und Drang" (when the libretto was originally written) and contemporary. The costumes also suggest all 3 time periods simultaneously. Everything onstage is abstract yet recognizably real somehow. How this is done is a treat to behold; beautiful to look at, interesting to contemplate, they are Platonic Forms made dramatically manifest. I spent much time just gazing at the geometric sets and props as works of art in their own right.

Performed by the Orchestra and Chorus of the Opera national de Paris superbly conducted by Sylvain Cambreling, this is an intelligent and thoughtfully entertaining production. Recorded live (in High-Definition) at the Palais Garnier, Paris in May and June 2005, this 2 disc DVD set from Opus Arte is a necessary purchase for lovers of Mozart. The performers include a marvelous Susan Graham in the trouser role of Sesto, Hannah Esther Minutillo in another trouser role as Annio, lovely Catherine Naglestad as Vitellia, Ekaterina Siurina as Servilia, the rotund Roland Bracht as Publio and the fine Christoph Pregardien in the title role as Tito. The Orchestra and Chorus of the Opera national de Paris are excellent, never overwhelming this delicate production which requires finesse to succeed. Karl-Ernst Herrmann and his Wife Ursel are the Stage Directors and have imbued this production with taste. I thoroughly enjoyed it but I think that a certain familiarity with Mozart's sound-world is helpful in order to appreciate opera seria, not everyone's cup of tea.

The film on these 2 DVDs is shot in 16/9 anamorphic widescreen in high-definition. It looks gorgeous. The total running time (with extras) is 212 minutes. Sound is available in LPCM Stereo and 5.0 DTS Digital Surround with no separate subwoofer track. On higher-end A/V systems there is a significant difference between the two, with DTS providing greater presence, a larger illusion of space in the soundfield and a sense of "liveness" I have found in none of the other formats (including Dolby 5.1). Lower-end systems may not reveal much difference. The sound on this DVD enhances the "live" nature of the Opera with the rear speakers providing strong ambiance. The double-layered discs are NTSC encoded for the world. Subtitles include English, French, Italian, Spanish and German. Extras include an illustrated synopsis, a Cast Gallery and an hour long documentary by Reiner Moritz called "A Masterpiece Revisited". The documentary is excellent.

La Clemenza di Tito is comparatively rarely performed. This is an excellent production for everyone but especially for those lovers of Mozart (like me) who can't get enough of his genius.

Mike Birman
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Not flawless, but moving and memorable Jan. 5 2009
By San Franciscan - Published on Amazon.com
My opera club watched this several times during the Bush era, and the central theme seemed more timely than ever: How does a ruler deal with dissent and treason? The review by Mike Birman is quite thorough, so I'll just add a summation: not everything in this modern production will work for you, but if you approach the parts that don't work with a sense of humor, you may find, like us, the overall effect to be quite moving.

I have this on CD and always thought it was terribly dull: march, aria, march, duet, march, aria, and so on. But watching this DVD, it comes alive. Beautiful, simple, modernized staging with stunning costuming that showed everybody to their best advantage. Committed singing and acting all around. The chemistry in the Annio and Servilia duet was breathtaking, with plenty to go around for the Sesto/Vitellia coupling. Weakest point: slight American accents in the Italian of Graham and Nagelstad, but one soon forgets as the action draws one in. Graham and Nagelstad are also definitely at their limits in terms of the most florid coloratura, but in general it is not disturbing since one is sufficiently absorbed in the acting and the moments are brief (these singers are not able to handle 100% of Mozart's demands comfortably like Cecilia Bartoli in the L'Oiseau-Lyre recording, but being top-notch singers, they do a very nice job 99% of the time).

If you're comparing this to the Harnoncourt Salzburg version with Vesselina Kasarova, you may want to check out my reviews of both in the "So you'd like to... Savor opera DVDs off the beaten path" Amazon guide.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
What's with the potato? Dec 30 2012
By Lawrence Landis - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
The acting is superb, the singing (especially Catherine Naglestad and Susan Graham) fantastic, but what's with the lady riding what looks for all the world like a baked potato...and why does the chorus have masks on at the end? Another fine example of European regietheater, where the director is more concerned with his own ego than with the intentions of the composer.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Why is Mozart So Hard to Stage? Feb. 1 2013
By Giordano Bruno - Published on Amazon.com
The music is Divine or better. The librettos are of substantial literary and dramatic quality, and Mozart invariably tweaked his librettists toward a unified musical/dramatic Whole. No other opera composer between Monteverdi and Janacek worked with librettos of such intelligence. And it's not for lack of trying! Every one of Mozart's major operas - Idomeneo, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, Die Zauberflöte, and La Clemenza di Tito - is staged in several theaters around the world every year. There are seven to twelve DVDs of different productions of every opera listed. Not many of them are as ghastly as the 2003 Royal Opera House performance of Die Zauberflöte with Diana Damrau as Queen of the Night, or as bizarre as the travesties offered by the Salzburg Festival M22. But, much as I love Mozart's operas, much as I seldom miss a chance to hear a live performance, I can't think of a single filmed staging that matches my ideal in all three categories of musical interpretation, dramaturgy, and visual artistry.

I'm not alone in this opinion. Look at the reviews here in the amazoo of "the Big Seven" and notice how many of them are four star apologetics. How can there be 47 reviews of Don Giovanni, the Greatest Opera in History, that average out to four stars??? Some of the best stagings, especially the older ones, are marred by poor sound recording and/or hampered by unreconstructed Romantic vocal technique. Some of the most gorgeous singing is wasted on dreadful sets, lumpish acting, or misconceived directorial antics.

The principal singers of this production from Paris could hardly be better. Susan Graham sings the castrato role of Sesto with every sort of HIPP brilliance. Catherine Naglestad is almost as perfect as Vitellia. Hannah Minutillo gives us an Annio of resonant energy and polish. Other reviewers have carped at the choice of Christoph Prégardien, a Schubert Lieder specialist, for the role of Tito; I had my doubts in his first scene also, but as the plot thickens Prégardien's voice gets more compelling, and there's no carping at his control of his 'instrument.'

But then there's acting. Expressive movement and facial control for those cinematic close-ups. Graham and Naglestad act as well as they sing; it's almost disconcerting to hear them sound like ordinary American Girls in the interview clips attached as bonuses. Minutillo handle herself well on stage but she's compromised by an absurd hairdo and the femininity of lipstick in the role of an ardent young male. And Prégardien? He couldn't possibly look less imperial or more professorial, but he gains credibility in his second aria as a Man of Conscience and Clemency. By the second act, I was finding myself in his corner, even though he's paunchy and has no physical grace whatsoever.

And then there's the visual. Sets and costumes. Utterly mediocre! They're supposed to be Timeless and Universal, but to my eyes they're unworthy of the music or the libretto. Add to that drabness a few touches of "unprepared absurdity" - yes, a giant baked potato is hauled across the stage in Tito's first scene, and Vitellia does paint parallel equal signs on her cheeks for no obvious reason - and you have what? ... minor annoyance! Just listen to the music! And hope that some day somewhere an opera company will stage a performance of Mozart that's satisfying on all levels.

Why FIVE stars? It's Mozart. And the singing is superb.
The Best Clemenza in Forever Jan. 17 2014
By Marianna - Published on Amazon.com
There being no film of Baltsa's Sesto, this is by far the best Clemenza extant, so incredibly good that by the end of Act 1 you can completely ignore the pointless gimmicks and incongruous costumes. And that's saying much! The astonishing Susan Graham we expect .. that the rest of the cast is so near perfect makes it incredible. Naglestad and Minutillo have the kind of great voices we so rarely hear these days and Pregardien is a fine Tito in a difficult, hard to believe role. There are no weak points in the cast. Both individually and collectively they are magnificent .. and it's all about the music, always. This is truly the "desert island" production.


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