La Clemenza di Tito by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

You know the popular song called, "I'd Do Anything for Love," right? Recently there have been a some TV commercials that use it as a theme. They depict a young man willing to do endure all sorts of trials -- attend yoga classes, do his girlfriend's laundry and buy embarassing personal products at the drug store -- all to please the woman in his life. He'll do anything, it seems, short of giving up his favorite soft drink.

Well, "I'd Do Anything for Love" might also serve as a subtitle for this week's opera -- Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito -- in which one character goes way beyond the fellow in the commercial when it comes to furthering his love life. The guy's name is Sesto. He lives in ancient Rome, and he's smitten with a rather shrewish woman named Vitellia. She'd rather have the Emperor, Tito, as her main man, and when she fails to snare him, she's not above using Sesto to get her revenge. Hoping to win Vitellia over, Sesto agrees to kill the Emperor -- by burning down the entire city of Rome and hoping to roast Tito alive in the process.

The scheme nearly works. Sesto does manage to destroy Rome, but Tito survives. You'd think that would spell bad news for Sesto and Vitellia -- but it doesn't. At least not in an opera called The Clemency of Titus, and written for the coronation of a new King. In the opera, when the emperor finds out that a whole gaggle of his friends had his demise in mind, he displays his benevolent nature and forgives everbody. La Clemenza di Tito was the last opera Mozart ever composed, and though he wrote it in a big hurry, using an antiquated libretto, it still shows us a mature, operatic master at the heigth of his power.

This week's production is the first of six coming to us from the nation's capital, presented by the Washington National Opera, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.


Conductor: Heinz Fricke, conductor
Cast: Tatiana Pavlovskaya (Vitellia); Michael Schade (Tito); Marina Domashenko (Sesto); Jossie Pérez (Annio); Hoo-Ryoung Hwang (Servilia); Nikolai Didenko (Publio)


Web Resources

Next week from Washington, it's a special "trilogy" starring the Washington National Opera's general director, who also happens to be a singer of some note -- tenor Placido Domingo. He's featured in operas by three different composers: Giordano's Fedora, Verdi's Otello, and Lehar's The Merry Widow.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor