A Broad Hint: the Clemency of Titus

A Mozart opera for the coronation of King Leopold II of Bohemia

La clemenza di Tito

Vienna State Opera 2012 Photo: Austrian Theatre Museum, Vienna / Barbara Palffy
1791
Prague
La clemenza di Tito

La clemenza di Tito

Vienna State Opera 2012 Photo: Austrian Theatre Museum, Vienna / Barbara Palffy

Mozart Amadeus Mozart was commissioned to compose the coronation opera for the coronation of Leopold II as king of Bohemia in Prague in 1791 – on a side-note, only after Salieri had declined. He paused his work on “The Magic Flute” and “The Requiem” to write “La clemenza di Tito” (The Clemency of Titus).

 

La clemenza di Tito – power, intrigue and ultimate mercy

The story is set in ancient Rome. Vitellia hates the Roman Emperor Tito because he has not chosen her as his wife. Tito wants to marry the sister of his friend Sesto, Servilia. Sesto in turn covets Vitellia, who promises her love in return for Tito’s death. Servilia spurns Tito, who in turn woos Vitellia. But she has already ordered the assassination… However, the attempt on Tito’s life fails. Vitellia confesses that she is behind the murder attempt, Sesto is sentenced to death. Torn between friendship and reason of state, Tito realises the full extent of the dilemma each ruler finds himself in. He decides to be merciful and pardons Sesto and Vitellia.

The material had been set to music on several occasions, but it would not have been Mozart if he had not created something entirely new. By portraying the Roman emperor as a humanist, he encouraged Leopold II to follow this virtuous example.

Mozart composed this opera under tremendous time pressure and while feeling depressed. In addition he was in terror of dying, with his fear heightened by the mysterious commission for the “Requiem”. With “La clemenza di Tito”, Mozart did not create a masterpiece such as “Don Giovanni” or “The Marriage of Figaro”, but this work still includes marvellous arias. It was the last Mozart opera – he had not long to live…