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La clemenza di Tito: A Conversation with Director Laura Johnson

Laura Johnson pic

Laura Johnson

La clemenza di Tito, the UI School of Music’s spring opera, is sure to impress come May. After speaking to Laura Johnson, the opera’s director, it is clear that with her experience and the performers’ hard work, this opera will be one you won’t want to miss.

Johnson is a visiting assistant professor here at The University of Iowa School of Music. She has spent a great amount time providing her professional guidance in opera at various colleges across the U.S. When asked what she enjoys most about being a guest at different colleges, Laura mentioned, “Everything! With great colleagues and great students what more can you ask for?! The voice faculty is so supportive and helpful and the design faculty is such a joy to work for. Opera is such a large art form that involves many people and talents and it doesn’t work unless everyone is willing to collaborate.”

While she admits that her experience at The University of Iowa has been a positive one so far, she believes the students’ curiosity and enthusiasm while working on La clemenza di Tito is what moves them forward in order to be great performers. The students have been busy preparing for La clemenza di Tito since last fall because it’s in Italian and is such a demanding musical style of dialogue set to music. Johnson emphasized that the students are doing great and that she is excited about the progress they’re making.

When it comes to the audience, according to Laura they should be most excited for the spring opera because, “it is an opportunity to see an opera that isn’t always done. While it’s a fabulous opera, it’s so often ignored and neglected.”

Laura Johnson

Johnson working with a South Korean actress on a piece for an international summer music festival

Laura goes on to give some background of the opera saying, “When Mozart died, his widow thought it was one of his best pieces of work. Her mission was to make sure it was performed, so she often sang the pieces herself. She genuinely loved the piece and felt it needed to be heard, and it wasn’t until the later part of the 20th century that people thought ‘oh it really is a great piece and should be performed’.” The set and costumes are considered to be a visual mash-up of sorts, including architecture and clothing from 18th century, Roman, and contemporary influences.

Laura really hopes that people will take the time to come out and have a look at the hard work everyone involved has dedicated towards the May 2-5 showing of La clemenza di Tito. She adds, “The Englert Theatre is a very intimate space to experience an opera, making it very exciting for an audience member. The audience won’t miss a thing because it’s visually and musically in your face.”


Written to celebrate the coronation of Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia in 1791, La clemenza di Tito tells of the attempted assassination of the Emperor Tito and his forgiveness of those who betrayed him. The opera was meant to reflect on the titular emperor’s mercy, a quality that the populace might have hoped for in their new king. Sung in Italian with English supertitles, Mozart’s striking portrait of a great ruler who finds power in mercy, rather than revenge, is a model for modern times.

For more information on La clemenza di Tito please visit: http://englert.org/event_details.php?id=800. To purchase tickets visit http://englert.org/blocks.php?page=buy_tix or call the Englert Theatre at (319) 688-2653.

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