La Clemenza Di Tito
Los Angeles Review by Willard Manus

Mozart's second-to-last opera, LA CLEMENZA DI TITO, was recently given a splendid production by Los Angeles Opera Company. Directed and designed by Thaddeus Strassberger, conducted by James Conlon, the opera had never been done at the Music Center before, but that didn't keep the company from backing it with all its resources.

A top-notch cast was assembled: Russell Thomas as Titus, Emperor of Rome; Guangun Yu as Vitellia, daughter of the deposed Emperor; Elizabeth DeShong as Sesto, a young Roman patrician (sung by a castrato in Mozart's day); Janair Bruggert as Servilia, Sesto's sister; Taylor Raven as Sesto's friend; and James Creswell as Publio, captain of the guard. These singers handled the vocal challenges of opera seria with impressive ease and beauty.

Equally impressive was the stagecraft: a gilded proscenium-within-a-proscenium set, fiery lighting effects (Rome burning), video projections of Italian paintings, a representation of the Roman Senate, etc. When dazzling costumes and realistic props (body armor, swords, tablets) were added to the mix, an ancient world sprang to life before our eyes.

Caterino Mazzola's libretto was a revelation as well. It told of an emperor, Tito, who could have ruled with an iron fist, but instead acted with compassion and conscience, even when dealing with his enemies. He spared those who had conspired against him (Sesto and Vitellia), believing that clemency, forgiveness and love should always be valued above revenge and punishment. "Tutti assolvo," he declares. I absolve everyone, adding, "E tutto obblio." And I forget everything.

L.A. Opera has scheduled two operas for May and June. EL GATO MONTES: THE WILDCAT, by Manuel Penella, will be performed May 4-19. Then Verdi's LA TRAVIATA will revisit the Music Center from June 1-22.

For tickets and information call 213-972-8001 or visit