The Royal Opera opens its doors with Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito | Lithuanian star tenor Edgaras Montvidas in the leading role

AISTE ANUSAITE - DAUBARAS Friday 21st May, 2021

And so at last! The theatres are reopening and cultural sections of almost every periodical are awash with the news. Fortunately, I am not in the habit of being swayed by critic's reviews before I get a chance to see any show and then to draw my own inferences. After attending the performance of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito at the Royal Opera, I was glad that I went with an open mind and no pre-set expectations. And honestly, did any of us know what we should expect from Her Majesty the Stage after these tough fourteen months of silent inactivity? I must admit - albeit eagerly awaiting the reopening of theatres - I didn't give much thought of how the post-covid stage aesthetics should look like. Should it form a sharp contrast to our present-day backdrop punctuated by "Keep Your Distance" and "Wear Face Covering" signs by offering viewers a lavish escapism of an old-fashioned glamour, or should it mirror the hard-on-the-eyes but unavoidably necessary reality?

Well, the director Richard Jones had indeed a difficult task of finding a right opening chord, so to speak. I wish I knew more about what lay behind his decision to swap the grandeur of imperial Rome for a barren scenery of what looked like a post-war council estate (surely the fact that the production budged was slashed down almost by tenfold left much less room for manoeuvre). Be it as it may, the minimal stage setting, unflattering costumes, harsh lighting casting dramatic shadows and the deliberately exposed back-stage jumble left the cast with a mammoth task of finding their own way in depicting characters in their current surroundings yet still to convey the unequivocal legacy of Mozart's opera seria. How does the artist embody those parts - originally created for much grander production - which are now completely striped of any safety of an elaborate costume, and even of their fictional position or rank? The only tools left to the cast were their voices and their emotions. Further more, it was not just a question of embodying the role according to the script. The characters were not just carbon copies of the original bunch of titos, vitellias and sexstuses that Mozart envisioned back in the 18th century. What we saw was their translation into the much altered perception of the 21st century. Indeed, many things have changed since then, but once distilled to the very essence, human emotions of love, jealousy, honesty and integrity are still largely unaltered, whether they are clad in a toga or in a hoody.

Bursting with national pride I would very much like to single out Edgaras Montvidas, one of the brightest stars of Lithuanian opera so becomingly leading the cast in the principal role of Tito and leaving a very personal imprint on his modern-day version of the title role, thus, making Tito very human and comprehensible. Yet to be fair, the entire cast was excellent in so bravely and originally transforming this almost mythological tale from a long, long time ago (from about AD 80, to be precise) into something that could have happened next door yesterday.

Being no opera expert nor music critic, I shall omit any technical, vocal or instrumental analysis and jump straight to the emotions that this unconventional, thought-evoking and brave production aroused in me... The impression I was left with was so manifold, that it would need many more column-inches for a proper dissection. Or maybe I should leave it at that and  end my musings on a high emotional note, because words can hardly do justice to the sharp contrast between the visual and the phonic, lyrical and prosaic. When listening to the music with the closed eyes one is lured into a gentle melody and a nostalgic tinkle of harpsichord, the olden world where everything was safe, warm and well-tuned. Yet upon opening eyes, I you are confronted with a stark contrast of its visual interpretation. To say that I was deeply moved by this disparity, would be a mere understatement. I was profoundly shaken to the very core. The end result was brave, relevant, thought-provoking, humbling yet uplifting and very very poignant.  Isn't this the Divine power of a good art?

Streaming of La Clemenza di Tito is scheduled for Friday, May 21, 2021 
7:30 PM BST

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