Bronx Opera (BxO) celebrates its return to live action with an English-language production of Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Tito). BxO’s General Director, Benjamin Spierman, who is also the production’s stage director promises us four performances of “Mozart performed by brilliant young singers with a modern twist.” His directorial concept transplants the Roman Empire to today through the lens of this opera, “because,” he says, “we’re living in a time where disagreements end up causing incredible schisms in society, and leaders who ultimately act out of mercy and kindness are very hard to find. This story, although it’s a very old story, underlines how important it is to be able to find common ground.”
In rehearsal for Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito: Devony Smith as Sesto and Barbee Monk as Vitellia – Photo by Benjamin Spierman
The production highlights uncanny political parallels, since the main event in the story consists in Sesto’s attempt to burn down the Roman Capitol, and in his concept, Spierman alludes to the attack on our own Capitol on January 6, 2021. In the opera, Sesto’s plot was meant to be used as a distraction for assassinating Emperor Tito of the Flavian dynasty, the real historical figure who succeeded his father Vespasian and ruled from 79 to 81 A.D. Emperor Tito had to face two major disasters: the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D., only a few months after his accession to power, and a major fire in the spring of 80 A.D. that burned huge parts of Rome for three days and nights. His historical renown stems not only from completing the Colosseum but also from his generosity in assuaging the suffering caused by the two disasters. The people had to go on bearing the hardships and the consequences of these disasters, and in Spierman’s directorial vision, these survival and coping struggles are transplanted into our own suffering and challenges in dealing with the Covid pandemic.
Benjamin Spierman, General Director of Bronx Opera and stage director of La clemenza di Tito – Photo by Michael Z. Rork
Yet another aspect of BxO’s updated production that relates to our times is the effect of the media, including social media, on how leaders and public figures are depicted and perceived. Through the use of technology, this modern-day La clemenza di Tito will highlight the disparity between what we perceive at a distance and what is actually visible up close and personal. On the whole, Spierman’s updated take on Mozart’s gem of an opera proposes an intriguing, thought-provoking, and relatable production not to be missed.
The performances will take place at the Lovinger Theatre at Lehman College, 250 Bedford Park Blvd. West, Bronx, NY 10468 on:
Saturdays, May 14th & 21st @ 7:30pm and Sundays, May 15 & 22 @ 2:00pm.
Tickets: $30 and $40, available here.
BxO’s cast and production team for La clemenza di Tito includes:
Tito: Steve Wallace (5/14 & 22) ; David Charles Tay (5/15 & 21)
Vitellia: Barbee Monk (5/14 & 22); Alexis Rodda (5/15 & 21)
Sesto: Devony Smith (5/14 & 22); Perri di Christina (5/15 & 21)
Servilia: Claire Robinson (5/14 & 22); Alina Tamborini (5/15 & 21)
Annio: Elisabeth Harris (5/14 & 22); Emily Hughes (5/15 & 21)
Publio: Jonathan Harris (5/14 & 22); Benjamin Howard (5/15 & 21)
Stage Director: Benjamin Spierman
Conductors: Michael Spierman (5/15, 21, 22) and Eric Kramer (5/14)
Producer: Jim Howard
Set Designer: Joshua Rose
Costume Designer: Anthony-Paul Cavaretta
Lighting Designer: Douglas Cox
Senior Production Manager: Scott H. Schneider, Intuitive Production Management
Production Stage Manager: Andrew Kasper
Assistant Stage Director: Alyssa van Gorder
Chorus Master: Michael C, Haigler
English Version: Benjamin Spierman
Orchestra Contractor: Teresa Kubiak
Top: La clemenza di Tito artwork – courtesy of Bronx Opera