La Clemenza di Tito / Troyanos, Neblett, Malfitano et al. / Rome 1980 (3)

(Previous section here.)

There were parts of this that I liked more than others. Catherine Malfitano as Servilia was rather sweet – but she didn’t have much to do most of the time other than cock her head and look concerned (there was enough of this that at times it was more wobbling her head and looking concerned, but I’m not sure that this is entirely Malfitano’s fault). I enjoyed listening to Kurt Rydl (Publio)’s voice, but this is not the type of production that attempts to make Publio interesting, so he wasn’t, very much. But the sound was nice.

And then there’s Carol Neblett as Vitellia. I called this a ‘Lady Macbeth-y’ version of the character, and I think I’m going to stick with that as a descriptor. Neblett has a voice with very big full low notes, which works in both “deh se piacer me vuoi” and to a certain extent in “non più di fiori” but in terms of interpretation I thought the latter sounded sort of ploddy in places, e.g. where the basset horn first comes in. There was a lot of running and arm waving, but somehow it failed to be alive in the best kind of way. Then again, this kind of alive quality is not really what this production is going for.

The two performances here that I enjoyed the most were Eric Tappy as Tito and Tatiana Troyanos as Sesto. Tappy’s Tito (doesn’t that sound like it should be the name of – I don’t know, a dive jazz bar or something? A mariachi cover band?) spends a certain amount of time looking startled in a wide-eyed freaked kind of way, e.g by statues during the overture, but this isn’t a ‘crazy Tito.’ He’s a very straightforward Tito most of the time – and again, I’m not sure that the goal here is subtlety and consistency of character. I particularly liked Tappy’s phrasing during the middle section of “se all’impero” and in the last scene with the sextet and chorus it was the tenor part I found myself following. I liked it.

But my favorite bits of this were Sesto’s big moments. I think that taken as a whole this performance gathered punch as it went on in the second act, and I particularly liked “de per questo istante solo” – I have written in the margin of my notebook that this may be the best part of the whole thing.

I’m still not sure what I think of this production as a whole. The way they’ve handled the acting and the characterization meant that for me, the ending lacked punch because you’ve got the impersonality of that massive final scene without the individual personalities to provide contrast. Also, I admit I kept getting distracted by everyone’s hair. (Kurt Rydl’s wig makes him look like a cross between Moses and Chewbacca, but you didn’t hear this from me.) I can see what the goal was, and I can understand why you might stage a production of La Clemenza di Tito with that particular goal in mind, but I’m not sure that I like it.

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