One of Mozart’s last operas, La clemenza di Tito (The clemency of Titus), is a story of friendship and forgiveness triumphing over jealousy and violence.
The new emperor of Rome, Tito, is much loved by the Roman people, with the exception of Vitellia, the daughter of the previous emperor. When her attempts to return to her rightful place on the throne through marriage are unsuccessful, Vitellia plots Tito’s assassination and enlists the help of her young admirer, Sesto. Sesto is close friends with Tito, but will do anything to gain the affections of Vitellia, so agrees to her plans. He sets fire to the Capitol, intending to trap Tito inside and kill him.
Meanwhile, Servilia (who is Sesto’s sister) has refused Tito’s marriage proposal because she is already engaged to Annio, Sesto’s close friend. Tito instead sends Publio, his captain of the guard, to take a marriage proposal to Vitellia on his behalf, but Publio arrives too late and the assassination plot is already in motion. Fortunately, Tito is not killed in the fire, but Sesto has gone missing. Annio finds his friend, who is torturing himself with the guilt of his crime, and tells him that Tito did not die in the fire and that Sesto should be honest with Tito and trust in his reputation for clemency. Sesto admits his guilt and faces trial and execution. Tito has explained several times in the opera how important clemency is to him and he now struggles with sentencing his friend. He questions Sesto privately and Sesto begs him to remember their friendship.
Alone and unaware of Tito’s trouble, Vitellia realises that that Sesto’s life is too high a price to pay for her place on the throne and finally admits to Tito that she is responsible and asks him to spare Sesto’s live. Tito announces a pardon for all conspirators, to high praise from the Roman people. With some demanding roles for its small cast, La clemenza di Tito, features some really excellent arias and ensembles and is truly one of Mozart’s masterpieces.