This long-neglected Mozart gem – about a very generous Roman emperor and the princess who seduces his best friend into an assassination attempt – has received a much-deserved revival in popularity in recent years. The opera itself is occasionally static, as the gorgeous arias and group numbers are separated by long swaths of recitative (which were not written by Mozart, but rather passed to a pupil), but this production makes judicious cuts that keep the plot moving without sacrificing coherence or dramatic effect.

Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s costumes and scenery, first seen in 1969, combine the Roman setting of the opera with the clothing of Mozart’s own era, with gorgeous and surprisingly cohesive results. The dramatically effective staging for this 2012 revival is by director Peter McClintock, and these singers inhabit it very naturally. The curtain opens to reveal Sesto and Vitellia in bed – a clever touch that partially justifies both Sesto’s insane passion and the fact that the action seems to begin mid-scene.

The main draw of this video recording is undoubtedly the singers. Elina Garanca is heart-wrenchingly convincing as the tormented Sesto, conveying his agony and inspiring sympathy while simultaneously singing the difficult music effortlessly. Barbara Frittoli pulls off the practically impossible role of Vitellia with appropriate haughtiness and a ringing chest voice on her low notes. As Sesto’s long-suffering friend Annio, Kate Lindsey adds further support to her reputation as a rising star in the opera world – one who will hopefully return to sing Sesto in future seasons. Giuseppe Filianoti’s Tito starts shakily but shines in the second act, especially during his extended sections of conflicted solo recitative. Lucy Crowe makes much of the small role of Servilia, with especially convincing acting in her duet with Annio and her subsequent scene with Tito. As Publio, Oren Gradus delivers his one aria gracefully and lends a strong bass voice to several ensembles. The cast is supported by a powerful and beautiful-voiced (if somewhat blank-faced) chorus.

The orchestration is often sparse during the arias, but the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra produces a full and energetic sound during the overture and larger numbers. The clarinet soloist (Anothony McGill) merits special mention for his sensitive playing during “Parto, parto”. Conductor Harry Bicket’s tempi begin slow but quickly pick up, and, after the first scene, the pace fits the drama quite well.

Unfortunately, the English subtitles provided are frequently inaccurate, which can lead to momentary confusion for those unfamiliar with the opera. That minor issue notwithstanding, this joins the 1980 made-for-film version of Ponnelle’s staging as one of the best traditional productions of La Clemenza di Titorecorded. It excels both musically and dramatically and is well worth watching, especially for those who are unfamiliar with Mozart’s delightful final opera seria.