(Previous section here.)
But how does it sound? Over all, not bad. Veronique Gens’s Vitellia is
very tall very seductive. The way she handles the repetitions of “alletta” at the end of “deh, se piacer me vuoi” leave no doubt as to why Sesto finds her fascinating, and the series of silky-looking slip dresses she slinks around in don’t hurt either. Vitellia has flashes of anger – she tips over a chair at one point, but quickly dials it back when Sesto comes in – and the odd moment of vulnerability, but she’s neither supremely ambitious nor supremely nuts. The general emotional color of the performance is consistent with that domestic drama vibe I mentioned before.
One thing that struck me that I hadn’t really thought much about before occurred when Gens, Bonitatibus and Esposito were hitting that Vitellia/Sesto/Publio trio in Act II. There are several repetitions of “che crudeltà!” but the last one is by Sesto and Vitellia in unison rather than one or the other of them. Here by that unison point in the number they’ve got the two pressed up back to back in an echo of an earlier scene where Vitellia had snuggled up to Sesto in this way to remind him of her charms; here the matched vocal lines and the stage direction taken together suggest that Vitellia has revealed how much Sesto means to her. Not a big deal, but just one of those little moments that seem to work really well for whatever reason.
(One other odd point – soloist and orchestra don’t seem to be quite perfectly tracking one another at the “prima che sol tramonti” line in the Act I Sesto/Vitellia duet.)
I was neither disappointed nor supremely excited about Anna Bonitatibus as Sesto. I like her voice – the lower part especially has a distinctive quality that I enjoy – and her acting vocal and otherwise is unobjectionable, but when I look back over my notes, nothing in particular seems to have leaped out at me.
Anna Grevelius and Simona Šaturová make an engaging pair as Annio and Servilia. Their duet in Act I is sweet (it’s hard not to be with that duet). Grevelius had a moment or two in “tu fosti tradito” that sounded a little on the harsh edge of bright to me, but that might be a recording issue. Šaturová gave Servilia some personality – when she goes to see Tito in Act I, her reaction to his enthusiastic “I wish all my subjects were like you!” is to be charmed and amused, as if Tito was the sort of older boss who is a little bit strange sometimes but who is also cute and can be flirted with harmlessly because he’s basically a decent person. Servilia also gets a little rough with Vitellia in Act II. As she is reminding Vitellia that as future empress she can help Sesto, the stage direction has her administering a series of “look at me while I’m talking to you!” wrenches of Vitellia’s shoulder.
There are things I like about Kurt Streit’s (Tito’s) voice. He can sound light and ringing and very nice – but often above a certain pitch his vibrato gets really wide and I enjoy the sound far less. Both of these qualities were in evidence here, the first during “del più sublime soglio” and the scene with Servilia; and both the first and the second during “sell all’impero” – here there was both some really nice phrasing (e.g. the line right before the repeat that ends with “timor”) but also that annoying vibrato thing.
There are things to like about this production – the conducting, for example, brought out some details that I hadn’t focused on before. But I don’t think this one’s a reference Tito.