Opera North did a wonderful job turning one of Mozart’s least known works, La Clemenza di Tito, into a modern extravaganza. The performances and set design were magnificent to behold, however, it’s difficult to comprehend how well they worked with the opera itself.

Seeing an opera is a strange thing in the 21st century. I can say with confidence that I, at 20 years old, was the youngest audience member at the Theatre Royal last night; however I’m not convinced that means that there weren’t people there who knew less about the genre then myself. To put it simply, seeing an opera is like seeing a musical but they sing in a different language (most of the time) and sing in a way that you spend the whole performance with your mouth open at some of the notes they are managing to reach.

La Clemenza di Tito has everything you could want from an opera. For those who know about classical music, the score really does seem to be one of Mozart’s finest and the Opera North orchestra performed it with incredible talent. Everything appeared to go perfectly in tonight’s performance, and I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s what an opera going audience want? To see a performance where the music is outstanding, the singing reaches notes only few could dream of, the stage envelopes you and the individual performances pull you in all the more. But this could also be La Clemenza di Tito’s downfall, a performance so neat and tidy that half way through the second act you start to lose interest.

Visually, Opera North created a triumphant stage. The use of lighting and projected graphics allowed the audience to feel swept into the action of the plot. The set was cold and modern, using a moving glass screen to change scenes, all of this resulting in a stage that was engaging but also did not overshadow the live performances. As said previously, this begins as something that is enjoyable but it’s difficult to continue in this fashion when the actual plot of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito does not seem suited to this intense focus on the storyline.

The production’s own programme discusses how Mozart was ‘desperate for cash, mortally ill, and working at great speed’ whilst writing this piece, something which suggests for a modern day performance to work there needs to be something more added to it, and that is not what this production provided.

Individual performances, specifically the powerful Vitellia portrayed by Annemarie Kremer and the subtle Servilia from Fflur Wyn, were exceptional. The whole ensemble were powerful, emotive and dedicated to the plot; there just didn’t seem to be enough there for their talents to truly flourish.

There is no doubt that any of Mozart’s operas, when performed well, make for an extremely enjoyable evening and that is exactly what you will get from La Clemenza di Tito. However, it does feel that when coming from such an established company as Opera North, there could have been so many more extravagant ways to bring this unknown opera to life.

Annie Macarthur

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