Finally (and when again?)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart : La Clemenza di Tito
Tomáš Černý (Titus), Anna Wierzbicka (Servilia), Louise Hudson (Vitellia), Hannah Ester Minutillo (Sextus), Jana Štefáčková (Annio), Zdeněk Plech (Publius)
Prague Philharmonia, Prague Chamber Choir, Jiří Bělohlávek (conductor)
In a city which witnessed the opening nights of some of the greatest Mozart’s operas, one would justifiably expect a good standard of performance. Regretfully, the playing of theatre orchestras is often less than adequate and in spite of the occasional appearance of talented young voices, the overall impression is rather mediocre. What a heavenly bliss was this evening! Jiří Bělohlávek is indeed the top Czech conductor who walks from one triumph to another one. He just finished an acclaimed series of Ká?a Kabanová at the Met and gets ready to take over the baton as the Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra later this year. Prague Philharmonia is his beloved child, an orchestra of brilliant young players which has been consistently excelling for a number of years. Hearing them in this performance of La Clemenza di Tito, an opera ordered by the Czech estates on the occasion of the coronation of the emperor Leopold II. in 1791, was a pure joy. Without much exaggeration, this was the finest Mozart operatic playing Prague has witnessed for a number of years. Brilliant sound, adequate tempi – all instruments playing with an enthusiasm so rarely seen among other local orchestras. Hannah Ester Minutillo in the lead part of Sextus was substituting the sick Dagmar Pecková - but what a substitution! This Czech born mezzo singing predominantly in Munich almost stole the show. Her singing is full of artistic expression and warmth, her voice has a velvety rich texture. Louise Hudson was competent in the upper middle register although her lows lack the real forza, the vibrato being definitely in need of improvement. Jana Štefáčková did well as Annio but Tomáš Černý’s singing was not as effortless as one would wish and he was clearly not too familiar with the part. Servilia of Anna Wierzbicka was regretfully one of the kind which does not leave any real memory (but, fortunately, no negative one either). Another highlight of the evening was Publius, sung by Zdeněk Plech, a most talented bass who certainly has the potential of a great career. There may not be too many numbers for Publius in this great piece of music, but Plech certainly left a firm trace in the mind of the audience. It was surprising to hear from a member of the reliable Prague Chamber Choir that there were only two rehearsals for this great evening. The singing was certainly at least adequate with some notable exceptions (fortunately towards the “excellent” mark) and the conducting and orchestral play were of almost recording quality. All in all, a great evening. Leaving the Prague Castle that night, true opera lovers must have been asking themselves the same question: When will such Mozart evening happen again?