MOZART: La Clemenza di Tito — Covent Garden 1976

Music composed by W. A. Mozart. Libretto by Pietro Metastasio, adapted by
Caterino Mazzol‡.

First Performance: 6 September 1791, National Theatre,

Principal characters:
Tito [Titus Flavius Vespasianus], Roman Emperor Tenor
Vitellia, daughter of the deposed Emperor Vitellius Soprano
Servilia, sister of Sextus, in love with Annius Soprano
Sesto [Sextus], friend of Titus, in love with Vitellia Soprano
Annio [Annius], friend of Sextus, in love with Servilia Soprano
Publio [Publius], prefect of the praetorian guard Bass

Setting: Rome, c. 80 C.E.


Act I

Scene 1. Vitellia’s apartments

Vitellia, daughter of a previous emperor of Rome, who had hoped in vain to
marry the Emperor Tito (Titus), incites Sesto (Sextus) to prove his love for
her by killing Tito, despite the fact that he is a friend.

Annio (Annius), a friend of Sesto, brings him a summons from the emperor.
Vitellia makes an insulting remark about Tito’s love for the Jewish Queen
Berenice, only to learn that Tito has parted from her and sent her back home.
With renewed hopes of becoming empress, she tells Sesto to defer his
assassination plans, giving him no reason, demanding that he trust her. Sesto
consents with delight when Annio asks for the hand of his sister Servilia.

Scene 2. The Roman Forum

The people acclaim Tito. He calls Sesto and Annio to him and asks Sesto
for the hand of Servilia. Both are taken aback, but Annio collects himself
sufficiently to congratulate the emperor on his choice, and is given the task
of conveying the news to Servilia.

Tito keeps Sesto at his side, remarking that the joy of rewarding friends
is the only pleasure he derives from his position. Annio laments the loss of
Servilia and when he tells her of her fate, she also grieves for their lost

Scene 3. The imperial palace on the Palatine Hill

Publio, commander of the Praetorian guard, brings Tito a list of those who
have defamed him and his predecessors. Tito deplores the investigation which
has produced the list and forgives those named on it.

Servilia confesses to the emperor that she loves Annio, but agrees to
marry him if he still wishes. He releases her from any obligation to him,
while wishing that all around him were as frank as she. Vitellia greets
Servilia ironically as future empress and beloved of Tito, but Servilia
answers cryptically that Vitellia may still be able to marry him. Not
understanding, Vitellia rages at having first Berenice, then Servilia
prefered to her, and threatens vengeance. She stirs up Sesto again and he
promises to avenge her, but when Publio brings the news that Tito has now
chosen her as his wife, she regrets the haste with which she sent Sesto

Scene 4. The square before the Capitol

Sesto, torn between love and friendship, resolves to die rather than
betray his friend, but his plot is already under way and the Capitol is
burning. Feeling that he is now committed, he enters the Capitol in search of
Tito. A crowd gathers and Sesto appears, announcing the assassination of the
emperor. Vitellia warns him not to betray himself.

Act II

Scene 1. The square before the Capitol

Sesto has learnt that he stabbed another man in mistake for Tito. He
confesses his attempted crime to Annio, declaring that he will leave Rome as
a repentant exile. But he is not yet suspected, and Annio advises that he
should continue to serve the emperor and by his fidelity atone for his

But Vitellia counsels him to leave at once, fearing not only for his life,
but for her honor as the instigator of the attempt. Sesto swears that her
secret is safe with him.

He is arrested by Publio, as the man he had stabbed had not died and had
been able to reveal the identity of his attacker. Sesto is led off to be
tried by the Senate, leaving Vitellia a prey to remorse.

Scene 2. A great hall

The people rejoice in the safety of Tito and he expresses his gratitude
for their devotion. He asks Publio about the progress of the proceedings
against Sesto, trying to find excuses for his friend, but Publio can give him
no comfort.

Annio begs for mercy for Sesto, but is interrupted by Publio, bringing
news of the condemnation of Sesto, who is to be thrown to the beasts in the
arena. He hands Tito the death warrant to sign, but the emperor, torn between
justice and mercy, decides to hear Sesto before signing. He offers Sesto the
chance to exculpate himself, but his lips are sealed by his promise to
Vitellia and he says that he deserves and desires death.

Servilia and Annio beg Vitellia, as their future empress, to intercede for
Sesto, reproving her when she seems to hesitate. Vitellia is moved to
admiration by the steadfastness of Sesto, examines her conscience and
resolves to confess, even though it will cost her the throne she has sought
and may even mean her death.

Scene 3. The Amphitheatre

The people have gathered for the games in which Sesto is to die. Vitellia
confesses, explaining that she had misconstrued Tito’s customary affability
into expressions of affection and felt spurned when he seemed to choose
others instead of her. In the face of so much treachery, Tito decides to be
magnanimous, to forgive and forget.

[Synopsis Source: Opera~Opera]

here for the complete libretto

Click here for an analysis of La Clemenza di Tito as propaganda.

image_description=Titus Flavius Vespasianus
first_audio_name=W. A. Mozart: La Clemenza di Tito
product_title=W. A. Mozart: La Clemenza di Tito
product_by=Werner Hollweg (Tito)
Yvonne Minton (Sesto)
Janet Baker (Vitellia)
Teresa Cahill (Servilia)
Anne Howells (Annio)
Robert Lloyd (Publio)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House
John Pritchard (cond.)
Live performance: c. February 1976, Covent Garden, London