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Lyric ends season with Mozart Revival

Phyllis Dreazen | 3/26/2014, 5:41 p.m.
Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus) was the last opera of Lyric's 49th season, which ended March ...

Casting Amanda Majeski as Vitellia, the third protagonist of this story, was a vote of confidence for the heights her career, still in its relatively early stages, is expected to attain. Her Vitellia was both aggressive and vulnerable; her singing was passionate and technically accomplished; her low notes were especially gorgeous. Cecelia Hall as Annio, the other trouser role, radiated loyalty to his true love, Sesto's sister Servilia (Emily Birsan in a delicious cameo), his best friend and his emperor. Bass-baritone Christian van Horn was Publio, Tito's wise and even-handed advisor.

Originally created for an open air space at Aix-en-Provence, the production lost something in translation to the Civic’s stage. The McVicar productions I've seen all had a large concrete creation or two with steps or handrails for climbing. This one–dominating the right side of the stage, sometimes sliding to center stage–seemed a cross between the Lincoln Memorial and the stair/seats in an amphitheater. People sat, stood or sprawled on it; often then ran up and/or down; some stumbled but, thankfully, no one fell.

Tito and Servilia word white (his costume had a shiny patina); everyone else wore shades of black in a kind of Regency-meets-Rome amalgam homage to Mozart's time The soldiers, first encountered doing a Sufi style, whirling sword dance, wore Roman type armor over short-skirted coat uniforms and high boots. A partly covered bust, center stage, the first focus point of the opera, was revealed, at the end when the drape was removed, as a blood-red head atop a silvery torso. Showing some kind of symmetry, perhaps, Tito, in a gold-bordered vermillion toga/cape with a long, trailing train–now alone–again traversed the steps. He scrunched and cradled the train as if it were a baby: Rome, his baby. Had these excellent musical forces been deployed in a concert or semi-staged production, at least one viewer would have been the happiest of campers.

Asides: Tito did not always vacillate: He led the Siege of Jerusalem, which resulted in its total destruction.