La clemenza di Tito
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Cor de la Generalitat
Francesc Perales, chorus master
Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana
Andrea Pellegrini *
* Centre Plácido Domingo
Rome, 80 AD. Tito, the new emperor has chosen as his wife a foreigner, Berenice, provoking the wrath of Vitellia, a Roman noblewoman who considers herself the best candidate for the throne. Exploiting the love that Sesto feels for her, Vitellia convinces him to assassinate Tito, but the plan is scrapped when Annio announces that the emperor has changed his mind and expressed his wish to marry a Roman woman. Vitellia is delighted with the idea of being the chosen one while Annio and Sesto reaffirm their friendship, soon to be cemented even further by the marriage of Annio and Servilia, Sesto’s sister.
In the forum, Tito is acclaimed for his generosity for his decision to donate all the money raised to build a temple in his honor to the victims of the eruption of Vesuvius instead. Alone with Annio and Sesto, he lets them know that he has chosen Servilia as his wife. Annio regretfully passes this news on to Servilia, who obeys Tito’s will in spite of her sadness.
Upon their return to the palace, Tito comes to understand the nature of Servilia’s sacrifice and frees her of her obligation by renouncing her. Not knowing this, Vitellia explodes with rage at Sesto, demanding that he get rid of the emperor once and for all. Sesto leaves her, determined to kill Tito. When news finally comes that Vitellia has been chosen as the emperor’s future wife, she is filled with fear and remorse.
The Capitol has been set on fire and Sesto expresses his regret at having dealt the death blow to Tito. Vitellia prevents him from confessing his crime while everyone mourns the loss of the emperor.
In the Imperial gardens, Sesto tells Annio of his betrayal. However, the emperor is still alive; in the confusion of the fire, Sesto wounded Lentulo, confusing him with Tito. The wounded man’s testimony promptly reveals the traitor. Before his arrest, Vitellia makes Sesto promise not to reveal her participation in the plot.
While the people give thanks to the gods for saving the emperor, Tito must sign the sentence handed down to Sesto, who has been condemned to death after declaring himself solely responsible for the attempted assassination. The emperor tries to understand the reasons behind Sesto’s betrayal, but to avoid betraying Vitellia, the young man simply asks for forgiveness. Once he is alone, Tito finally decides to be magnanimous rather than vengeful and commutes the sentence. Meanwhile, Annio and Servilia convince Vitellia to confess her role in the plot while she laments her shattered dream of becoming empress.
In the amphitheater, Sesto is brought before Tito, who is about to pardon him when Vitellia enters and throws herself at the Emperor’s feet, confessing her guilt and imploring his mercy. Tito vacillates, but his generosity prevails. He grants forgiveness to all involved while the people praise the clemency of Caesar. In a final gesture, Tito asks the gods to cut his life short if he should ever stop serving his beloved Rome with dignity.