We’re going to begin the evening with one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s last operas. La Clemenza di Tito was a last minute commission given Mozart by Domenico Guardasoni, who had directed the premiere of Don Giovanni, and who was at the time the director of the National Theater of Prague. Guardasoni had been given the responsibility of providing a new opera to celebrate the coronation of Leopold II, the current Holy Roman Emperor, as the new King of Bohemia. The assignment was received in June, and the the opera was to be premiered on 6 September. Guardasoni promised that he would engage a “castrato of leading quality”, and that if he were not able to acquire an original libretto, he would use a text written by the well-known librettist Metastasio (whose librettos we have heard on this program numerous times). This eventually happened, with a fair amount of editing being done by Caterino Mazzolà, to whom Mozart actually gave credit for the revision in his catalog of compositions.
There is some debate as to the time frame in which Mozart did the writing for the opera. It is known that much of the writing was done during a brief period during the summer of 1791, something that required Mozart to interrupt his work on The Magic Flute. However, some scholars have suggested that Mozart may have had some of the opera written prior to April of 1791, as one of the arias from Act 2 was performed in recital at that time. It has been suggested that Mozart may have had opportunity to work with Mazzolà during a visit to Dresden in 1789.
After the 9/6/1791 coronation, the opera saw a fair amount of popularity. It was the first of Mozart’s operas to be performed in London (1806), and it was premiered at La Scala in Milan in 1818. That popularity diminished somewhat, as Mozart scholars saw the piece as an inferior work. In recent years the work has underwent a reappraisal, and the result is that there are a number of recordings of the opera, including six made since 1990. 89 performances of the opera have been done in 2011 and 2012.
Tonight’s performance was a 2007 Grammy Nominee for Best Opera Recording, and features Mark Padmore, Alexandrina Pendatchanska, Bernarda Fink, Marie-Claude Chappuis, Sunhae Im, and Sergio Foresti. René Jacobs directs the Freiburger Barokorchester.
Our second piece for the evening is a work that took me a few months to be able to acquire. Betrothal in a Monastery is a comedy (and quite an interesting musical comedy at that, with a distinct sense of musical whimsy that reminds one of Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale) that was begun by Sergei Prokofiev in 1940. Prokofiev used a Russian libretto written by himself in collaboration with Mira Mendelson, whom he later married. The work was interrupted by World War II, and was not premiered until November of 1946 at the Kirov Theater.
Tonight’s recording is from 1998, and features Anna Netrebko in one of her early starring roles, along with Evgeny Akimov, Larissa Diadkova, Alexander Gergalov, Nikolai Gassiev, Marianna Tarassova, and Sergey Aleksashkin. Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra & Chorus is directed by Valery Gergiev.