29 Apr 2024

About the production: La clemenza di Tito

Robert Carsen

“It’s impossible not to think of recent, extremely unexpected events here”

As early as 1994, Cecilia Bartoli brought the figure of Sesto to vocal life for a CD recording of Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito. Almost three decades would pass before she sang the role for an audience: her concert role debut at the 2021 Salzburg Whitsun Festival was described by one Italian critic as “memorabile” – memorable; another wrote: “The torn nature of the character is intensely palpable in every phrase.” Eager anticipation greets Cecilia Bartoli as Sesto in her first staged production – directed by Robert Carsen.

At the very beginning of Mozart’s last opera, we see Sesto conflicted between his close friendship with the Roman Emperor Tito and his blind love for Vitellia. The latter feels cheated out of her hopes for Tito’s hand in marriage and the throne, and therefore urges Sesto to organize the assassination of the Emperor. In the finale of Act I, the Capitol has been stormed and set on fire: “It’s impossible not to think of recent, extremely unexpected events here,” Robert Carsen remarks, “although we are not setting this work in Washington in 2021.” Tito survives the attempt on his life, and in Act II we watch with fascination how he deals with the people who have betrayed him: “How does this ruler, who has dedicated himself to the maxim of benevolence, deal with his own feelings of revenge, and at the same time with the importance of forgiveness?”

The music of La clemenza di Tito is extraordinarily powerful: “This music does not only capture an emotional atmosphere; it has a strictness which gives the strange impression that the events go beyond the individual level – beyond the individual characters who cause these events. That makes the work greater, but also makes the job of staging it and making the audience care about it significantly harder: a challenge I look forward to!”


Translation: Alexa Nieschlag
First published in the Festival insert of Salzburger Nachrichten 2024


12. December 2023
La clemenza di Tito | Salzburg Festival 2024 – Statement Robert Carsen