La clemenza di Tito, K621 – opera seria in two acts to a libretto by Caterino Mazzolà after Pietro Metastasio [sung in Italian with English surtitles]
Titus – Michael Schade
Sextus – Alice Coote
Servilia – Rosa Feola
Vitellia – Malin Hartelius
Annius – Christina Daletska
Publius – Brindley Sheratt
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen
Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers
Reviewed: 22 February, 2012
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
The singers and musicians landed on this day and were rehearsing frantically up to the 7 o’clock start. Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen has been touring La clemenza di Tito, an account pushed and squeezed so as to extract heavy emotions. Act One worked quite well, with the drama paced so that it made immediate sense, and with the characters bristling with passion one felt their plights. However, with Act Two, it all became rushed: singers coming and going, the music driven by Louis Langrée, and singers with hearts on sleeves rather than meditating on Mozart’s glorious music or the story.
Alice Coote stole the show in the trouser-role of Sextus, close friend of Titus, the emperor who has usurped the throne of Princess Vitellia’s father, who, although in love with Titus, plots with Sextus to kill him to regain power. She was at her best in the pleading moments of Act Two, and she gave a fervent account: it was captivating. As Titus, it’s a shame that Michael Schade ruined an Act Two that should release supreme justice. Titus was angry throughout (fine when finding out about the plots) but when the libretto and music calls for forgiveness and contemplation, Schade stayed angry. His barking also destroyed the vocal line of the close, and the storming-off was not in character: Titus is supposed to be a grand, contemplative, forgiving figure and Emperor of Rome.
Malin Hartelius handled the vocal challenges of Vitellia admirably: her confession to Titus was tinged with dignity and overbearing sorrow. Christina Daletska’s warm mezzo was ideal for Anninus, and matched the free and open soprano of Rosa Feola, who sang Servilia. Brindley Sherratt was strong: his sublime bass was clear and authoritative.
Deutscher Kammerchor, its members singing from the sides of the stalls or within the orchestra or from the back of the stage (all good ideas) were well-drilled, if a little too overpowering at times. The orchestra was a pleasure to hear and wonderfully supportive of the singers: the extended clarinet solos of Matthew Hunt were beautifully rendered, and the natural horns and trumpets did not put a note wrong.