8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2014
Metastasio's 'La clemenza di Tito' was one of the most popular opera libretti of the 18th century, no doubt because in the figure of the compassionate Roman emperor Titus one could pay a large compliment to the royal patrons of opera. Gluck's setting was made in 1752 for Naples and intended for the name-day of the king Carlo III. There are few foretastes of what Mozart made of this text nearly 40 years later, but plenty of premonitions of Gluck's own later reformed style, especially in the dramatic orchestrally accompanied recitatives, the one for Sesto that opens Act 2 and the one for Tito in Act 3, where the characters enlarge on the dreadful dilemmas, the tests of friendship, in which they are embroiled. There are plenty of well varied and attractive arias, occasionally departing from the ubiquitous and leisurely 3-part da capo form for something more succinct.
This sort of music must be very taxing for the singers, but here they are mostly well up to the task. Laura Aikin is an effective Vitellia, the scheming heroine, and Raffaella Milanesi makes considerable appeal as her put-upon lover, Sesto, a role written for the celebrated castrato Caffarelli. It is Sesto who sings the best known number in the whole work, the Act 2 aria, 'Se mai senti spirarti sul volto,' which Gluck used again for one of the finest, most archetypal moments in his mature operas, 'O malheureuse Iphigenie,' Iphigenia's despairing lament at the extinction of her family and all her hopes in 'Iphigenie en Tauride' of 1779. It is truly remarkable that the music already exists in its developed form in the context of the unreformed opera seria 'La clemenza di Tito' 27 years before. (The middle section was made into the chorus that follows in the later work). This piece and two of Vitellia's fiery arias are included in Cecilia Bartoli's outstanding disc of Gluck arias: she is of course inimitably characterful in this music, though I find her tempo for 'Se mai senti' on the slow side. Milanesi is almost as slow, while Magdalena Kozena in a valuable recital of Gluck, Mozart and Myslivecek arias sets an ideal flowing tempo.
The part of the emperor himself, Tito, is a tenor role, ably sung by Rainer Trost. I do not care much for the two counter-tenors who sing subsidiary roles: Publio's music in particular lies too high for comfort for the singer concerned, but this is a minor quibble. All in all this is a most welcome addition to the Gluck discography and anyone interested in this composer need not hesitate to acquire it.
1 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 5 July 2014
Not the best of operas by Gluck and bought because of the reasonable price. Shocking to spot the internal plagiarism, but he was not, of course, unique in this respect. No complaints for the money spent.