Monday, April 21, 2014

Clemenza di Tito is hilarious and I demand it be presented as such

A local opera house *COUGHTHELYRIC* just closed a production of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, also known as his last opera, also known as "that one with all the ladies making out IF STAGED CORRECTLY," also known as totally baller.

I am essentially outraged -- OUTRAGED -- by the Lyric's treatment of it, mainly because it was boring as shit and funny in the wrong places. WHY would you have Rome-on-fire and the emperor's concurrent assassination located on the same side offstage! It just looks like his soldiers are running with their swords drawn AT the fire. "TAKE THAT, FIRE," said the Roman guard right before dying, because in sword-paper-fire, fire always wins.

If you're unclear on the plot of Clemenza, translated as The Clemency/Forgiveness/Mercy of Titus, then let me catch you up.

Titus is the emperor of Rome. Vitellia, aka Psycho Lady, wants to marry him. Sesto, a mezzo playing a dude, wants to sex up Vitellia and so in the time-honored manner of people wanting to sex up other people, is willing to do pretty much whatevs she asks.

Titus is going to marry Lady #1 instead of Vitellia (it doesn't matter what Lady #1's name is because we never see her and whatever anyway, there're too many names in this opera already). Vitellia loses her shit and tells Sesto to MURDER TITUS IN HIS FACE.

Sesto is bffs with Titus, and also Titus is the emperor, so at first he's all "hey maybe not," but then he remembers the sexing thing and says he'll do it.

Sesto's brain all the time

BUT THEN. It is discovered that Titus will NOT be marrying Lady #1, and Vitellia says "Hey, never mind about that murder thing." Meanwhile, Sesto's ACTUAL bff (sorry, Titus), Mezzo Playing a Dude #2, is named Annio and he/she shows up being all "Sesto, I'm in love with your sister Servilia," whose name alone should indicate how interestingly people usually play her.

Annio and Sesto go to Titus to tell him about Annio wanting to marry Servilia, and Titus says "HEY SESTO, GREAT NEWS, I'M GONNA MARRY YOUR SISTER." And because it's Rome and there's no female agency aside from ladies using their sexual wiles for stabbing favors, Annio saying "Oh, what a wonderful decision, sir" is seen as noble instead of kind of a dick move to the girl who's in love with him.

"Hold up, Servilia, while I tell you why this was
entirely my decision."

So Vitellia finds out Titus is engaged to Lady #2 (Servilia), who is STILL NOT HER, so she's like "HEY MURDER PLAN IS BACK ON" to Sesto, who says "Okay" and goes off to murder Titus, and I guess burn Rome, because Rome is definitely on fire at the end of Act I. That kind of seems like overkill, but if you're murdering the emperor already, then all right I guess. You do you.

But in the meantime, Servilia's had the balls Annio lacked and goes to Titus and says "Hey, I actually love Annio" and Titus says "Okey dokey" and someone goes to tell Vitellia "Titus wants to marry YOU now, Lady #3" to which Vitellia basically goes

But TOO LATE and Rome's on fire and the soldiers run off to smite it with their swords, and Sesto comes stumbling onto stage in full 18th century overwroughtness and says he's killed Titus. END OF ACT ONE.

Act Two pretty quickly dispels you of the notion that Titus is dead. In the Lyric's production, they had some ridiculous line in the supertitles about how "It was really smoky, so you stabbed some rando, but whatever, we don't care about his death because at least the emperor's alive" but upon checking the libretto, it seems the far less stupid translation is Sesto accidentally stabbed Character We Don't Care About, but he didn't die, so. That's good.

Sesto's arrested. Titus sings about how awesome and clement (GET IT?) he is. Servilia tells Vitellia she sucks if she doesn't speak up for Sesto, because boy is staying TRUE even though he never got sexings. Vitellia ponders what motives a person could possibly have for not being a dick after no post-imperial assassination sexings.

Vitellia does not understand your 
Earthman emotions

Titus is MAYBE going to sentence Sesto to death. Then Vitellia comes in and is all "NO, I TOLD HIM TO," and Titus is for good reason starting to wonder if he has any friends despite this whole clemency thing. But BEHOLD, he pardons everyone, yay Rome, yay clemency, the end.

It is RIDICULOUS. And yeah. Opera's usually ridiculous. But here it's not like "There's a magical horn!" or "You totally don't recognize me in this moustache!" or "Obviously her fiance returns two seconds after she signs the contract to marry that other guy!"

This is just humans being silly. "Kill him! No wait! Yes, kill him again! WAIT I REGRET THAT STATEMENT." If you play Clemenza di Tito straight, then it's boring as hell. All the silliness. All the overdoneness. Do this opera right or NOT AT ALL, I SAY.


  1. I...hardly know what to say to this in response. I don't think I've heard of this opera, which makes me feel a little dumb. and THEN you crammed all of that action into your summary of Act I, so I panicked a little when I saw your Act II heading, assuming this one would have all 5 acts, thinking, what the hell else can happen here and what will be saved for the big finish?

    But it's only two acts, so I'm totally cool with that. Though it sounds like perhaps it could be improved with a magic horn or two.

  2. Sarah Plain freaks out because shes being blamed for some wacko who shares some of her beliefs, Muslims all over the world text LOL...Cccam Server