Opera seria had always chosen its settings and characters from classical antiquity drawing on Greek mythology, the histories of Livy and Suetonius, the Aeneid, Plutarch’s Lives, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In the second half of the eighteenth century, however, this world was given a new lease of life, separated from contemporary matters by an ever-decreasing division, across which it seemed almost possible for modern ideas to join hand with antiquity. In this context, the virtue of clemency is often represented on many levels in Mozart’s operas, and in particular in La Clemenza di Tito (1791). The main purpose of La Clemenza di Tito is the creation of an esthetic and neoclassical vision that introduces an enlightened interpretation of the virtue of clemency into the absolutistic context. Demonstrating the ability to forgive, and setting his own needs aside to accommodate his subjects, Tito is an enlightened ruler, who is both morally irreproachable and sensitive. By forgiving and preserving his subjects, the enlightened ruler allows them to become enlightened themselves.
Part of the book: Antiquity and Its Reception