Renata Pokupic (Sesto) and Dominic Armstrong (Tito) in a relationship! - Chicago Opera Theater 2009
It is easy to forget that La clemenza di Tito was a problem child for years. Mozart's last opera was long considered to be a throwback to an antiquated style - he had moved on with the da Ponte operas and the Magic Flute - what was he doing with this old fashioned form? Well in the last 40 years or so Tito has gradually been recognized for the masterpiece that it is - and Christopher Alden's lively production does it great service in this regard. Alden is a supreme musician as well as a thoughtful examiner of text and character. And as a man of the theatre he breathes fresh life and relevance to everything he touches.
When coupled with the wonderful cast that the Canadian Opera Company assembled for this recreation of COT's 2009 production you have a three hours superb music making and music theatre. And the Toronto audience appreciated its richness to the full, apart from a handful of isolated reactionaries who came determined to demonstrate against Christopher Alden - more about his previous perceived "offences" I gather than against the Tito performance yesterday afternoon.
I believe that Alden's work with Michael Schade in the title role was transforming. And his meticulous work with each other member of the highly intelligent cast brought us much entertainment (yes some humour in an opera seria !) as he drew flesh and blood individuals where so of one meets "stock" characters. The relationships and dilemmas were real and gripping. Terrific stuff all round!
In addition to a remarkable performance from Schade, we had the joy of encountering Isabel Leonard, the complete Sesto of one's dreams, a truly splendid Vitellia in Keri Alkema, and past and present COC ensemble members Wallis Giunta (an energetic and athletic Annio), Robert Gleadow (a witty and beautifully sung Publio), and Mireille Asselin (the delectable Servilia). This was an international cast of the highest quality in a production rigorously prepared, and welded together by a gifted young Israeli conductor Daniel Cohen.
After lunch today with my old friend Loie Fallis of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, I will attend a rehearsal with orchestra of the COC Ensemble Studio cast of La clemenza di Tito. And then eventually to the airport to fly back to London tonight.