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??? COHPAnATIST TRADITION AND RECEPTION OF ROMAN IMPERIAL ETHICS IN THE OPERA LA CLEMENZA DI TITO Werner Wunderlich I. Fingiti in mente Eroe più generoso, e più clemente. [...] Inútil chiama, perduto il giorno ei dice, in cui fatto non ha qualcun felice. (Mozart, Clemenza I, Recitative) ViteUia, to whom these Unes are addressed in Mozart's opera La clemenza di Tito, is told to imagine a milder and more generous hero, one who says that the day on which he has made no one happy is useless and lost. This patriotic and friendly song of praise to the Roman emperor Tito (Titus) and his goodness is sung by Sesto (Sextus), his favorite and confidant. He cites the famous dictum "Amici, diem perdidi," the apothegm of hyperbolic self-characterization that had been attributed to Titus Flavius Vespasianus Caesar by the Roman historian Suetonius (669).' Sesto wants to make it clear to his beloved Vitellia what an outrage an assassination attempt on this emperor would be. However, Vitellia , the proud daughter ofthe former emperor Vitellius whom Titus had ousted, is furious. She impatiently scolds Sesto, telling him that he should drive that magnificent embodiment of imperial virtue from the throne and not delay a moment longer. Enough words have gone back and forth; now she wants action. Agitated with rage and hate, Vitellia angrUy demands revenge for her father and for her shattered hope that Titus would make her his empress. And so disaster takes its course within twenty-four hours. Of course, the palace coup miscarries. Titus, torn between raison d'état and mercy, forgives Sesto and Vitellia in the end as weU as aU the other conspirators because he prefers not to exercise his official power and authority, but to show human love and goodness. II. Metastasio's opera of royal homage La clemenza di Tito was first produced on November 4, 1734, in the Vienna Hoftheater, using the score by court composer and vice conductor Antonio Caldara, to celebrate the nameday of Charles VI, honored in Italy as "cesare" and as the successor ofthe Roman emperors (cf. Rice 132 ff). In the epilogue-like "licenza" of La clemenza di Tito, which functions more as a topos than as a declaraVcH . 25 (2001): 5 ROMAN IMPERIAL ETHICS IN LA CLEMENZA DI TITO tion ofloyalty, the author turns directly to the "good" sovereign Charles VI and gives his reasons for referring to Titus: Non crederlo, signor; te non pretesi Ritrarre in Tito. [...] Veggo ben che ciascuno Ti riconobbe in lui. [. . .] E ogni virtù più bella, Se in te, signor, s'aduna, Come ritrarne alcuna Che non somigli a te? (750) Believe not, Sire, that I wish to portray you in Titus. [. . .] But I see that everyone recognizes you in him. [. . .] And were, O Sire, all virtue combined in you most beautifully, how could one portray someone that would not resemble you?2 The motif and theme of this Titus play (Lühning, "Clemenza" 60Of) correspond to those in CorneiUe's Cinna ou la clémence d'Auguste (1641). Of course, instead of the Augustus material, Metastasio, the famous "principe" of melodramatic poetry and "poeta cesareo" of the Vienna court, chooses the Flavian emperor Titus as eponymous hero of the libretto praised by Rousseau and Voltaire3 for its unity ofplace, time, and action (cf. Moberly). Besides, ever since the Titus plays by Corneille and Racine, the figure of the forgiving ruler and the motif of mildness were familiar on the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century stages. For example , Francisco Antonio Bances Candamo's play El esclavo en grillos de oro (ca. 1690) shows how the emperor Trajan brings a conspirator to reason by naming him co-emperor and forcing him to discharge the duties ofthe position. Likewise, Johann EUas Schlegel's tragedy Canut of 1746 is an homage to the Danish King Friedrich V, who was admired by Klopstock as the ideal enlightened monarch (cf. Borchmeyer). Metastasio, whose original name was Pietro Antonio Domenico Bonaventura Trapassi and who got his HeUenized name from his patron, the jurist and writer Gian Vincenzo Gravina, belonged to the tradition ofthe Accademia dell'Arcadia, founded in Rome in 1690 and supported by Gravina . This "poet's school...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 5-21
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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