MOZART: La clemenza di Tito
“Deh, per questo istante”
The plot of La clemenza di Tito is a study of the conflicts between civic duty, personal loyalty, and romantic love. And, unusually for a Mozart opera, love can make good people do bad things. This has already happened when the character Sesto sings the impassioned aria “Deh, per questo instante solo.” Sesto is in love with Vitellia, and though he is the emperor Tito’s closest friend, he has given way to the scheming Vitellia’s demands and joined with the conspirators who wanted to assassinate Tito. His conflicting emotions — remorse, love, a longing for punishment — are interwoven in this great opera.
The overture to Mozart’s opera seria La clemenza di Tito opens with a very serious motif stated repeatedly. It’s almost like hearing a fanfare: Portentous silences separate each iteration and the sound is very upright and four-square, with a martial air. This is an opera of ramrod-straight morality, and as the overture proceeds and the tempo gains momentum, we hear this strictness underlining every theme.