Author’s Note: Full disclosure, due to taxi troubles and a snowstorm, I missed the beginning of La clemenza di Tito and watched the first act from the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre on screen. I learned three things from this experience: 1. Don’t trust cabs in a snowstorm. 2. The anticipation of entering the auditorium and seeing the stage in person instead of on screen could not build any further. 3. The cast you see in that performance will always be the cast you know. —
Mozart’s final masterpiece La clemenza di Tito reads a bit like a high school election for prom king and queen. Tito would be the student body president and captain of the football team who just wants to do the right thing. Vitellia would be the head cheerleader who feels entitled to prom glory and knows just how to get what she wants. Even with its light-hearted and humorous moments, this opera steers clear of bad teen rom-com clichés and instead director Christopher Alden brings Mozart’s complex relationship between characters to life and we see those characters develop before our eyes on stage. This opera was commissioned for the coronation of Leopold II and the clemency of Tito was to inspire the upcoming reign – with egos, entitlement, jealousy and power to fuel the story, who’s to say opera isn’t juicy and accessible to all?
To elaborate on point 3 above, a long time ago I overheard the dismay of some audience members upon hearing the matinee performance of a Broadway show would be performed by the understudy female lead. Having missed the beginning of this show, I did not know that Owen McCausland was standing in for Michael Schade as class president Tito. Had I not found out that McCausland was not the scheduled lead, I would have thought he was certainly born for the role. For most, it is likely that you will only see a show once and that will be the experience you have and you remember. And what an experience McCausland gave this audience; I have always enjoyed seeing the COC ensemble grow and garner more stage presence and hope to see his career continue to blossom.
Another emotionally evocative and powerful performance came from Keri Alkema as head cheerleader Vitellia whose character, along with Isabel Leonard’s Sesto, goes through several changes of heart and attempts to right wrongs. Females in this production of La clemenza di Tito played the male roles of Sesto and Annio. Leonard played a more convincing male character; however, I may have been detracted somewhat by Annio’s costume.
Terese Wadden created Roman costumes imagined as though the style had evolved through various fashion eras and Annio’s Nike Shox and hipster esthetic felt out of place, perhaps increasing my inability to connect to the character. In a similar Roman style, the set, designed by Andrew Cavanaugh Holland, incorporates tall marble-like walls—a perfect canvas set for the climax of Act I.
La clemenza di Tito is all about the characters on stage. Scored beautifully and set against a large-scale set that could overpower weaker characters and less powerful voices, the journey of these characters and performers who voice them are a fine success.
La clemenza di Tito runs until February 22.
For more information or to purchase tickets please visit: Canadian Opera Company