NOTE: Due to a dispute between the paper and Florida State University, this review was not printed in the Democrat.
An opera lives and dies by its music. A production of an opera, taking this truism a step further, lives and dies by the singing. If Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito (1791, libretto by Caterino Mazzolà after Pietro Metastasio) depended on its story (spoiler alert: the title gives away the ending) we likely wouldn’t see it performed outside of completist Mozart festivals.
Clemenza contains some of Mozart’s most beautiful music, however, as was demonstrated in the Florida State Opera’s production this past weekend at Opperman Music Hall. Stage Director Matthew Lata and Scenic and Lighting Designer Peter Dean Beck provided a talented cast with a vital setting from which to project the music, music that goes far deeper into character and its expression that the story demands.
JamisonWalker was a convincing and charismatic Tito, emperor of this production’s mid-20th-century Rome. He got off to a slow start, having a little trouble with pitch in his early scenes, but he recovered nicely for his central role in the second act. Tito’s right-hand man Publio was sung and acted with authority by Young Ju Lee.
Emma Char (as Sesto) and Rachel Hendrickson (Annio) gave solid performances in their difficult “trouser” roles (male characters played by women), and Rebecca Shorstein was radiant in the supporting role of Servilia.
But the evening belonged to Christina Villaverde as Vitellia, the driving force of the story. Ms. Villaverde has a very strong, attractive voice and compelling stage presence to go along with it.
The chorus was solid and well-prepared. FSU Director of Opera Activities, Douglas Fisher, seems to have Mozart in his blood. He led the Opera Orchestra in a well paced, tightly-knit performance. Of special note was the clarinet playing of Julie Schumacher, whose many solos were delivered with flair.