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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite beauty in Ancient Rome, 16 Dec. 2007
By 
Loge (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: La Clemenza Di Tito: Wiener Philharmoniker (Levine) [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Dating from 1980, this exquisitely beautiful recording of Mozart's 1791 opera seria, La Clemenza di Tito, was staged and directed by the legendary Jean-Pierre Ponnelle in a number of ancient Roman ruins: the Forum, the Baths of Caracalla and Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli. Reflecting the studied artificiality of the genre, costumes are based on court dress of the late 18th century and acting is mannered verging on melodramatic, rather than naturalistic (which I take to be a nod to Classical stage conventions and which works perfectly in this production).

The plot involves political power-plays, love, vengeance and a failed assassination attempt against the Emperor (initiated by the daughter of the usurped former Caesar, Vitellia - played with magisterial authority by Carol Neblett). The Vienna Philharmonic and State Opera Chorus are conducted by James Levine.

The cast is exceptionally strong. Tatiana Troyanos presents an emotionally complex Sesto, torn between his love for Vitellia and his profound affection for Tito (Eric Tappy), prepared to face death rather than reveal the source of the plot against the Emperor. The scene involving the Emperor's visit to the imprisoned Sesto - the emotional heart of the opera, just as the beautifully performed and dramatically staged sextet during the fire on the Capitol is its musico-dramatic centre - brings out Sesto's distress and the wavering of Tito between his official imperial role as judge and his personal feeling for his friend. Anne Howells (Annio), Catherine Malfitano (Servilla) and Kurt Rydl (Publio) are each excellent in the lesser roles.

This is "big orchestra" Mozart with no pretence at "authenticity" - those seeking something closer to "period performance" should opt for the great English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner DVD. Also, as a film it's dubbed, but not noticibly so. This VPO/Levine/Ponnelle production, does present a profoundly evocative experience, musically and visually beautiful with dramatic punch (within its constraints) where needed, and is essential viewing for fans of coloratura bel canto singing, opera seria and Mozart.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ponnelle's genius enhances Mozart's, 27 May 2012
By 
Duncan R. McKeown "Mozartian" (Norwich, Norfolk UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: La Clemenza Di Tito: Wiener Philharmoniker (Levine) [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Let me say, right at the beginning, that I absolutely adore this production of Mozart's last opera seria. Some people might find the acting a trifle melodramatic, but I suggest that if you are looking for naturalism, opera seria is not the place to start! Call me a heretic if you like, but I have always preferred Tito to Idomeneo in Mozart's output of opera seria. I know the recitatives (in the original) are long-winded, and probably Sussmayr's, but there is such an abundance of wonderful melody in this work, and a real epic grandeur. Although lacking its humour and more immediate appeal; just like The Magic Flute, Tito is infused with the idealistic spirit of the late enlightenment. The choruses are absolutely heavenly, and the obbligato clarinet element in the beautiful arias 'Parto, ma tu, ben mio' in ActI and Vitellia's great showpiece 'Non piu di fiori' in ActII gives this opera a very 'late Mozart', autumnal feel. Anton Stadler, the basset-horn virtuoso for whom Mozart wrote the famous clarinet concerto, was also the soloist in the first performances of Tito (the two works are exactly contemporaneous, and it shows). The tender duet between Annio and Servilia is beautifully executed here, and was a favourite of the poet Shelley. This reminds us that Tito was very highly regarded in the years immediately after Mozart's death, and not dismissed (even by romantics) as just another old-fashioned opera seria!
Ponnelle was a genius in his own right; a film director of the first rank who chose to focus his considerable talent on films of great opera. The wonderful, atmospheric, photography of the ruins of ancient Rome (and Tivoli) is ample evidence of Ponnelle's skills. There is no attempt at a slavishly accurate recording of a stage performance here. This is a cinematic rendering of opera seria, with many cuts in recitatives, mercifully some might say, and really brings to life what was often regarded (in 1980) as a moribund art form. As a result, La clemenza di Tito is, in Ponnelle's hands and those of his gifted singers, nothing less than a revelation.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 19 Oct. 2006
This review is from: La Clemenza Di Tito: Wiener Philharmoniker (Levine) [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
This is by far the best "La Clemenza di Tito" that you will ever see. It is filmed in Rome in the Forum, Arch of Titus and Carcalla Baths. The singers are all suberb especially Eric Tappy (Titus). It is a must buy for all opera lovers.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent singing, too much melodrama., 28 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: La Clemenza Di Tito: Wiener Philharmoniker (Levine) [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Having just seen the Met cinema production with the gorgeous Elena Garanca, this 1980 version does accentuate the difference between filmed and staged performances. I find the setting just too 'Roman' and lacking imagination and some of the direction and dress produce almost a 'pantomime' effect. Bergman's immortal 'Flute' and Losey's dramatic 'Don Giovanni' show what can be done with the flexibility of film medium. Having said that, the music is of course absolutely glorious, much of it on a par with 'Cosi' and 'The Flute' and thus some of the most beautiful music ever written. Overall the singing is excellent and the prison scene between Tito and Sesto has real intensity of feeling. I do recommend this version in spite of my misgivings towards the 'theatrical' aspects because the music comes first.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lektor, 21 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: La Clemenza Di Tito: Wiener Philharmoniker (Levine) [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Dejlig musik, skønne sangere. Mozart når han er bedst. Velopbygget dramatisk. Både kor og orkester er vel dirigerede og velspillende.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstandingly Very Special Performance, 29 Dec. 2012
By 
H. A. Weedon "Mouser" (North Somercotes, Lincolnshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: La Clemenza Di Tito: Wiener Philharmoniker (Levine) [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
What can one say about this superb performance filmed well over thirty years ago in ruins of ancient Rome? Breathtaking? Glorious? Out of this world? It certainly held me spellbound from beginning to end. This Jean-Pierre Ponnelle directed presentation has to be an all time great with all the performers giving of their very best.

The tactful modifications made to this opera seria work well with the result that the listener-viewer cannot help but be swept up into an ultra-real world of superbly blended and choreographed sound and movement. It's all very much a case of how it's all presented rather than what was actually composed, and here the brilliant presentation and staging have worked wonders. All the viewer need do is to sit back, relax and allow it all to envelop him/her. I'll add no more except to one hundred percent endorse everything that the other five star reviewers have said about this great performance.
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