LA Opera unveils new production of The Clemency of Titus, starring Russell Thomas, on March 2

Prize-winning artwork by a CSUN student to be featured on the program cover

(Los Angeles) February 21, 2019 — Plácido Domingo has announced the latest details about LA Opera's company premiere of Mozart's The Clemency of Titus.

The new production conducted by James Conlon and staged by Thaddeus Strassberger will feature:

  • Fast-rising star Russell Thomas in the role of Titus
  • Scenic designs inspired by 19th-century Romantic-era paintings, set in Rome's Temple of Jupiter, the Roman baths and Titus's throne room
  • Lavish costumes, including a gown worn by Vitellia with a 25-foot train
  • Lighting and projections that replicate the burning of Rome
  • Prize-winning artwork by Cal State Northridge student Jesslyn Bundy showcased on the program cover

"One of the many things I love most about opera is that there’s always something new to discover," said Mr. Domingo. "The Clemency of Titus was unjustly neglected for more than a century, but with a true champion of Mozart, James Conlon, as our music director, it was only a matter of time before we introduced our audiences to this rarely performed masterpiece."

The Opera and the Composer
Rome in the first century A.D. is the most powerful civilization in the world. And yet even this greatest of capitals falls vulnerable to power players seeking glory. In a plight to keep his crown and save the city he loves, Emperor Titus is faced with the ultimate choice between mercy or murder. (The title might just possibly give his decision away.)

Mozart wrote the opera—La Clemenza di Tito, to use its original Italian title—in the final months of his life. Unable to resist a lucrative last-minute commission, he completed Titus in just a few weeks, taking a break from his nearly-finished score for The Magic Flute to do so. The opera premiered on September 6, 1791, as part of the celebrations for the coronation of Leopold II in Prague; Mozart died just three months later.

The Performers
Tenor Russell Thomas, who sings the role of Emperor Titus, has enjoyed a strong presence in Los Angeles in recent seasons. He appeared with LA Opera as Pollione in Norma (2015) and Cavaradossi in Tosca (2017), and with the LA Philharmonic in Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (2018) and in the title role in a concert performance of Otello at the Hollywood Bowl (2018). Later this year, he'll perform his first highly anticipated stage performances as Otello with Canadian Opera Company and Washington National Opera.

Soprano Guanqun Yu sings the role of Vitellia and mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong is Sesto. Both artists return for the first time since their 2015 debut appearances in LA Opera's "Figaro Trilogy."

Soprano Janai Brugger, an alumna of LA Opera's Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, returns as Servilia. Mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven, a current member of that program, appears as Annio and bass James Creswell, a former Resident Artist with the company, returns as Publio.

The Creative Team
Thaddeus Strassberger not only directs the new production; he also designed the monumental scenery, which sets the action in locations including the Temple of Jupiter, Roman baths and Titus's throne room. "The Rome of Mozart's Clemenza is grittier than the idealized version we have in mind today," he recently told Opera News. "I wanted to get back to the blood and guts of this work, and not present a cleaned-up, low-stakes interpretation."

Costume designer Mattie Ullrich, whose previous LAO credits include Mr. Strassberger's productions of Nabucco (2017) and The Two Foscari (2012), returns to create the lavish costumes for Titus. (One of the gowns worn by Vitellia features a train that's 25 feet long.) The climactic burning of Rome at the finale of Act I is created through the combined artistry of lighting designer JAX Messenger and projection designer Greg Emetaz, who make their LAO debuts with this production.

Titus Art Contest
Aspiring artists from a number of Southern California colleges competed in LA Opera’s third annual College Art Contest. Chosen from 48 entries, the top three winners will receive substantial cash prizes (thanks to the generous support of GRoW @ Annenberg). Winners were picked by a jury of art, opera and marketing experts, chaired by Gregory Annenberg Weingarten and Regina Weingarten.

Jesslyn Brundy of Cal State-Northridge won the top prize of $5,000 and her work will be featured on the Titus program cover. Dalia Marin of Cal State-San Bernardino won $2,000 for second place and Alyssa Damore of Pasadena City College won $1,000 for third place. All three winners will be honored in person by the cast at a celebration following the opening night performance.

"I tried to create a contemporary take on a classic," said Jesslyn Brundy on her winning design. "I am just so, so thrilled to find out I won. It's a boost of encouragement."

Special posters showcasing the winning submissions will be on display in the lobby during the run of the show. (The top three winners are pictured below.)

For more information on the College Art Contest, click here.

Performance Dates and Times
There will be six performances of The Clemency of Titus presented by LA Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (135 North Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012):

  • Saturday, March 2, 2019, at 7:30pm
  • Thursday, March 7, 2019, at 7:30pm
  • Sunday, March 10, 2019, at 2pm
  • Wednesday, March 13, 2019, at 7:30pm
  • Saturday, March 16, 2019, at 7:30pm
  • Sunday, March 24, 2019, at 2pm

Tickets are on sale now. Tickets begin at $16 and can be purchased online at, by phone at 213.972.8001, or in person at the LA Opera box office at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90012). For disability access, call 213.972.0777 or email

For additional information about this presentation, visit

1 Jessyln Brundy 2 Dalia Marin 3 Alyssa Damore

   Left to right: winning program cover by Jesslyn Brundy; second-place winning entry by Dalia Marin; third-place winning entry by Alyssa Damore

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Production made possible with generous support from:
The Carol and Warner Henry Production Fund for Mozart Operas
GRoW @ Annenberg
The Emanuel Treitel Senior Citizen Fund

LA Opera is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the greater Los Angeles community.
Yamaha is the Official Piano of LA Opera.

LA Opera Media Contact
Vanessa Flores Waite, Director of Public Relations / 213.972.7554