Opera seria in two acts

Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart · Libretto by Caterino Mazzolà after Pietro Metastasio
In Italian with German surtitles

Thursday, 20. February 2014
07:00 pm – 10:10 pm

Duration est. 3 hours 10 minutes · 1. Akt (est. 07:00 pm - 08:10 pm ) · Interval (est. 08:10 pm - 08:50 pm ) · 2. Akt (est. 08:50 pm - 10:10 pm )

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Musikalische Leitung
Kirill Petrenko
Jan Bosse
Stéphane Laimé
Victoria Behr
Ingo Bracke
Bibi Abel
Miron Hakenbeck
Sören Eckhoff

Tito Vespasiano
Toby Spence
Kristine Opolais
Tara Erraught
Hanna-Elisabeth Müller
Angela Brower
Tareq Nazmi
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In 1791, the commission at short notice to compose a coronation opera forced Mozart, the free spirit, to fall back on material from an earlier time: Metastasio's story about the Roman Emperor Titus, which had already been brought to the opera stage dozens of times, served both as the homage to a man of power and as the reminder of an ideal rule based on reason. Mozart draws a distinctive profile from the outmoded genre and once again, with his last opera, creates a study of the complicated interplay of human feelings: Titus is praised for being fair and merciful. However, within his own environment, this apparently impeccable ruler, who changes his wedding plans many times for the common good, generates a tangle of disappointed love, frustrated desires, jealousy and betrayal. When his close friend and confidant is persuaded by the woman that opposes him to attempt to kill the beloved ruler in an arson attack, everything is questioned: Who is actually honest here and what feelings can still be trusted? At the court of Titus, what is intimate is always illuminated by what is political and public. And so decent gestures of friendship are shot through with feigned feelings, reason leads to self-denial and love is polluted by calculation and manipulation.


Tito is the Roman Emperor. He has recently inherited the throne of his father, Vespasian, who came to power after overthrowing and murdering the emperor Vittelio. The daughter of the latter, Vitellia, hopes to become the empress by marrying Tito. Tito, however, plans to marry his beloved, Berenice, although the people of Rome disapprove of the emperor marrying the Jewish princess. Vitellia feels rejected by Tito and wants revenge. Sesto, one of Tito’s closest friends, who has fallen desperately in love with Vitellia, is to act for her and organize a conspiracy in which Tito is to be murdered.

Act One

Vitellia accuses Sesto of putting her off and postponing the attack on Tito unneccesarily. Sesto has misgivings about killing the emperor and praises to Vitellia the emperor’s policy of mildness and charity. When Vitellia threatens to look for someone else to carry out her revenge, Sesto changes his mind: he is prepared to do anything in return for her love.

Sesto's friend Annio surprises them both with some news. Tito has parted from Berenice out of consideration for the interests of Rome. Vitellia's hopes of being chosen to be Tito’s empress are now raised. She orders Sesto not to undertake any steps against Tito for the time being. Sesto begins to suspect that he is merely Vitellia's tool but she cleverly convinces him otherwise.

Annio wants to marry Sesto’s sister, Servilia. He asks Sesto to persuade the emperor to give his approval of the marriage. The two friends promise always to be there for each other.

Tito receives homage from Rome and his provinces but refuses to allow a temple to be built in his honour. He orders that the money should be put to a better use in helping the people affected by a disastrous volcanic eruption.

Alone with Annio and Sesto, Tito tells them of the change in his marriage plans. He has chosen Servilia from among the women of Rome to be his wife. He hopes thus to cement his friendship with Sesto. Tito notices Sesto’s diffidence and explains that he suffers from being so powerful unless he can make others happy.

Servilia hears of Tito’s decision from Annio. Annio’s attempt to act merely as a subject in Servilia’s presence fails as his feelings for her overcome him. They both swear to love and be loyal to each other all their lives. Upon this Servilia admits her feelings for Annio to Tito. The emperor does not react as expected; he gratefully praises her for her courage in telling him the truth and and gives his blesssing to the union between Annio and Servilia.

Still believing that Servilia is to be the future empress, Vitellia again feels humiliated by Tito’s choice. She urges Sesto to take action and give the signal for the putsch. Completely under the spell of her beauty, Sesto promises Vitellia that he will help her to have her revenge.

Tito’s prefect, Publio, and Annio inform Vitellia of Tito’s recent change of mind: his choice of wife and future empress has now fallen on Vitellia. She tries to call Sesto back, but it is too late. Annio and Publio see in her panic the expression of extreme joy.

Meanwhile Sesto is struggling with his doubts. He finally makes up his mind to stop the putsch. His accomplices have, however, already set fire to the Capitol. Sesto rushes to Tito in the palace. Shortly afterwards he returns with the dreadful news that Tito has been murdered. Vitellia cuts him short before he can give the name of the murderer. Everyone breaks out in lamentation at the death of the emperor.

Act Two

Annio joyfully brings Sesto the news that Tito is alive; in all the commotion somebody else was mistaken for him and became the victim of the attack. Sesto admits to Annio that he was the instigator and leader of the conspiracy. Annio stops him from fleeing Rome. As Tito’s faithful servant he should show his good will.

Vitellia, on the other hand,  fears that she might be betrayed by Sesto and urges him to flee. Publio arrests Sesto, on whom suspicion of his having a share of the blame for the conspiracy has fallen. Sesto bids Vitellia farewell, swearing that he will think of her till he dies.

After the fire Tito appears before his subjects, feeling the need to be near them. He waits impatiently for the outcome of Sesto's hearing before the Senate. He cannot believe that Sesto is guilty.  Publio admonishes the emperor for being so trusting. A short time later he comes with the news that Sesto has confessed, bringing with him the death sentence for the emperor to sign. Annio begs Tito to have mercy on Sesto. Tito gives orders that he is to be left alone. Although he is deeply hurt by Sesto’s betrayal, he hesitates to sign the death sentence and decides to question Sesto once more himself.

Alone with Sesto, he urges him to confide in him as a friend. Deeply ashamed, Sesto admits his guilt, but as he does not want to betray Vitellia he remains silent when Tito asks him about the motives for his actions. Tito is angry and has Sesto led off to be executed. Sesto tells him that he is not afraid of death but that the fact that their friendship is at an end causes him suffering.

Tito struggles with his feelings and his conscience, then decides to remain faithful to his policy of leniency and tears up the death sentence.

Meanwhile Annio and Servilia appeal to Vitellia’s compassion: as the future empress she should beg Tito for mercy for Sesto. Vitellia is forced to realize that Sesto has kept his word. Touched by his love, she begins to weep. Servilia urges her to allow action to follow her tears.

Vitellia realizes that the responsibily for Sesto’s life lies in her hands. She decides to confess her guilt to Tito, having given up her hopes of glory, and laments her impending loss of honour.

The Romans are awaiting the public execution of Sesto and his accomplices. When Tito is about to pronounce sentence on Sesto, Vitellia interrupts him with her confession that she drove Sesto to commit murder. Tito is shocked and feels let down by everyone but stays firm in the decision he has already made: his leniency shall be more powerful than the malice surrounding him. He pardons all the culprits and is celebrated as Rome's benefactor.

Premiere of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "La clemenza di Tito" on February 10, 2014 in the Nationaltheater

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Kirill Petrenko was born in Omsk in 1972 where he studied piano at the College of Music. At the age of eleven he gave his first public performance as a pianist with the Omsk Symphony Orchestra. In 1990 his family (his father a violinist and his mother a musicologist) relocated to Vorarlberg where his father worked as an orchestra musician and music teacher. Petrenko first continued his studies in Feldkirch before moving to Vienna to study conducting at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts. 

His first job after graduation took him directly to the Vienna Volksoper where he was hired by Nikolaus Bachler as Kapellmeister. From 1999 until 2002 Kirill Petrenko was General Music Director at the Meininger Theater. It was in 2001 in his role as conductor of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, in the production by Christine Mielitz and with scenery by Alfred Hrdlicka, that he first achieved international acclaim. In 2002 Kirill Petrenko became General Music Director of the Komische Oper Berlin where, until 2007, he was credited with a series of highly significant productions.

During his time in Meiningen and Berlin his international career also began to flourish. In 2000 Kirill Petrenko made his debut at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, in 2001 at the Vienna Staatsoper and the Dresden Semperoper, in 2003 at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, the Opéra National de Paris, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, the Bayerische Staatsoper, the New York Metropolitan Opera and in 2005 at the Oper Frankfurt. In Lyon, in collaboration with Peter Stein, he conducted all three Pushkin-inspired operas by Tchaikovsky (Mazeppa, Eugene Onegin and Pique Dame) from 2006 until 2008, which were also performed as a cycle in early 2010.

After moving on from the Komische Oper Berlin Kirill Petrenko worked as a freelance conductor. During this period his projects included conducting a new production of Leoš Janáček's Jenůfa (Production: Barbara Frey) at the Bayerische Staatsoper in 2009. In Frankfurt he conducted Pfitzner's Palestrina (Production: Harry Kupfer) and Puccini's Tosca (Production: Andreas Kriegenburg). In 2011 he worked on two new productions of Tristan and Isolde at the Opéra National de Lyon and at the Ruhrtriennale.

To date, the most important orchestras Kirill Petrenko has been invited to conduct include the Berlin Philharmonic, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the BR Symphony Orchestra, the Bayerische Staatsorchester, the WDR Cologne Symphony Orchestra, the Hamburg Philharmonic and the NDR Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, the Frankfurt Opern- und Museumsorchester, the Amsterdam Concertgebouworkest, the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome, the RAI National Symphony Orchestra in Turin and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Kirill Petrenko has also conducted concerts at the Bregenz and Salzburg Festivals. From 2013 to 2015 he swung his baton for the new production of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen during the Bayreuth Festival.

Since September 2013 Kirill Petrenko has been General Music Director at the Bayerische Staatsoper. He has held this position until the end of the 2019/20 season. Since 2013, he has taken to the rostrum for premieres of Die Frau ohne SchattenLa clemenza di TitoDie SoldatenLucia di Lammermoor, Lulu, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsenk District and Tannhäuser as well as the world premiere of Miroslav Srnka’s South Pole and a revival of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen among other works. In June 2015, Kirill Petrenko was named future Chief Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, starting this position in autumn 2019.

In the current season at the Bayerische Staatsoper Kirill Petrenko led an new production of Verdi's Otello  and Strauss' Salome. Furthermore, Kirill Petrenko conducts revivals of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Fidelio, and Parsifal as well as two Academy Concerts with the Bayerische Staatsorchester.

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