Written just months before Mozart’s death in late 1791, La Clemenza di Tito did not initially meet with the same warm reception as the other opera Mozart composed at the same time, The Magic Flute. In the years since, it has been reevaluated as an important contribution to the opera seria genre, and adaptations like this one from the 2017 Glyndebourne Festival highlight the work’s assets, from typically masterful Mozartian arias to highly original ensemble pieces that transpose opera buffa elements to the more serious setting. Claus Guth’s gorgeous modern staging highlights the complex, contentious relationship between Tito and Sesto, rounded out by the “exceptional performances” of Richard Croft and Anna Stéphany (The Guardian).
Pietro Metastasio’s 1734 libretto had already been set dozens of times before Mozart composed this best-known adaptation in honor of the coronation of Leopold II as King of Bohemia. It follows Roman emperor Titus, target of an assassination plot by scheming Vitellia (daughter of Vitellius, the emperor usurped by Titus’s father Vespasian), who wants him dead if she can't have him. She sets the emperor's friend Sesto against him, but Titus is spared when their plan goes awry. Reversals of fortune, betrayals, and mistaken identities complicate the intrigue as all the players vie for power—who will emerge victorious?