Mozart - La Clemenza di Tito / Susan Graham, Christophe Pregardien, Catherine Naglestad, Hannah Esther Minutillo, Lorenzo Regazzo, Sylvain Cambreling, Paris Opera
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Commissioned for the coronation of Leopold II in Prague, Mozart's last opera is a deep, humane reflection on relationships, power and forgiveness. With the composition of some of the most beautiful passages in his oeuvre, Mozart has succeeded in giving this opera seria both a noble sobriety and transparent instrumentation, to which this commanding production by the Hermann partnership does full justice on all levels. Susan Graham's most extraordinary Sesto and Christoph Prégardien's superb Tito set the standard for this riveting Opéra National de Paris performance, conducted by the outstanding Sylvain Cambreling.Press Reviews
"An evening of overwhelming beauty." (Le Monde )
"Everybody was taken by the warmth and the emotion in Susan Graham's voice as well as her breathtaking acting." (Le Figaro)Cast
Susan Graham (Sesto)
Hannah Esther Minutillo (Annio)
Catherine Naglestad (Vitellia)
Ekaterina Siurina (Servilia)
Roland Bracht (Publio)
Christoph Prégardien (Thomasin Rand)
Paris Opera Orchestra; Sylvain Cambreling
Company: Opéra national de Paris
Stage Director: Ursel Herrmann; Karl-Ernst Herrmann
Catalogue Number: OA0942D
Date of Performance: 2005
Running Time: 212 minutes
Sound: DTS Surround; LPCM Stereo
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic
Subtitles: EN, FR, DE, ES, IT
Label: Opus Arte
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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.
This opera is, to my mind, a forward -looking work of great stature where Mozart is finally able to address the universal concepts of loyalty, friendship, betrayal and forgiveness divorced from all issues of social class. The temporally distant `Roman' setting, focussing upon the unblemished character of Tito, becomes a universal stage where everyone is seen and judged on an equal footing. This makes this opera, for me, an extraordinary and astonishing leap forward into modern times.
The production that we have here makes use of a minimalist staging of clean lines intended to be timeless in effect. The costumes equally, are representative rather than intentionally historical. The use of clear-cut lighting also produces a very modern effect so the sum total of this is to bring the opera firmly into the `universal truth' type of production unfettered by precise historical considerations. It must be stressed that this is not going to be a production that will necessarily appeal to those who insist on historical accuracy or generous, strictly 'traditional' staging. Nevertheless, as one who dislikes avant garde productions which are sometimes referred to as 'Eurotrash', I personally did not find the minimalist or modernist quirks of this particular production to be damaging to my appreciation of the musical qualities of the performance. In this I am in line with other reviewers who like this disc, but there will inevitably be those who do not and who, understandably, will hold very strong views about productions such as this.
The singers, having so few props and staging at their disposal, are thus particularly focussed on the communication of the words and their dramatic effect without staging 'distractions'. The result is one of tremendous concentration and impact. This level of communication would only be possible with a cast of considerable singing and acting ability and that is certainly what we have here. It would be invidious to highlight particular members of the cast given such evenness of quality. Suffice it to mention their roles as being of equal merit - Christoph Pregardien as Tito, Susan Graham as Sesto, Catherine Naglestad as Vitellia, Hannah Minutillo as Annio, Ekaterina Siurina as Servilia and Roland Gracht as Publio. The fine and incisive orchestra is conducted with energy and flair by Sylvain Camreling
The recording is outstanding with crisp imaging and sympathetic camera work which is totally involving. The sound is of the high standard one has come to expect of Opus Arte and is presented in surround and stereo formats.
There is an extended bonus film of about 60 minutes which takes the form of a thorough explanation of the work and its performance seen through the eyes of the producer and cast members. This is informative and interesting with many examples extracted from the recording to illustrate the points being made.
I would suggest that this can be classed as a very fine production and performance indeed. I would expect such a recorded achievement to give considerable satisfaction to most purchasers and see no musical reason to withhold any of the full 5 stars. The purely musical values are outstanding. For those who have doubts about the production values themselves as outlined above I would suggest checking on various on-line examples which are currently available to view before purchasing.
In summary therefore I would suggest that this disc should warrant serious consideration by potential purchasers. I would also suggest that they also investigate an equally fine, but different concept and performance at Salzburg, conducted by Harnoncourt with Schade, Kasarova, Roschmann, Bonney and Garanca in the lead roles.
Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:
A well-considered and utterly fascinating Review, Ian.
This is one of your Best Ever! (U.K. review)