Giulio Cesare

Giulio Cesare

opera in three acts

DVD - 2006 | Italian
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Baker & Taylor
This imaginative production has been updated to the years before World War I and portrays Caesar as a 19th century British imperialist come to colonize Egypt.


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MadameMoonfly
Aug 10, 2013

Admirable ensemble work, blocking and choreography. And the coordination of onstage sound to music is simply masterful. William Christie and the Age of Enlightenment orchestra drive a robust tempo with none of the academic staidness that period groups can sometimes succumb to. While not in complete disagreement, I question the decision to have Sarah Connolly sing Cesare at Baroque pitch. "Empio, dirò, tu sei" would be better in her natural range; to see what I mean, check out "Cara Sposa" (Rinaldo) and "Scherza Infida" (Ariodante) on the "Night With Handel" DVD to hear Connolly in her full glory. Despite the unnecessary restraint, her voice is lovely, her phrasing wonderful. "Va tacito" and "Se in fiorito" (w. violinist Nadja Zweiner) are two of my favorites. Dramatically, Connolly makes a handsome believable Cesare. Patricia Bardon's contralto-esque Cornelia is deliciously velvety. Angelika Kirchschlager has a lovely mezzo and makes an appealing Sesto even if her acting is a bit awkward -- more confused little boy than grieving then vengeful young man (see Alice Coote in the same role more recently at the Met). Maltman's Achilla is quite decent even if his eccentric phrasing of "Tu sei il cor" is less than thrilling. Christophe Dumeaux's Tolomeo cannot possibly be more viperish (NOTE: His career is worth keeping an eye one). My real disappointment is with the casting of Cleopatra. Danielle de Niese is a charismatic stage animal in campy dance numbers like "Non disperar" where though shrill she also charms as she mugs, slinks, wiggles. In more introspective arias like "Se pietà" however she tends toward an American Idol style of singing. While de Niese does have volume and high notes, she possesses neither the musicality nor dramatic range to embody the complex multifaceted Cleopatra. Unless one is deaf to everything but the singer's fine physique and the lovely staging, I cannot imagine a "V'adoro pupille" less enchanting. All in all, there is much to enjoy even with the bits I dislike. My final and heartiest criticism is really for director David McVicar. While I do very much appreciate his ability to produce crowd pleasers, it is difficult to not snort at all the director's grand talk of artistic rigor (see the "Interviews" section) when hype so obviously rules the casting of Danielle de Niese as Cleopatra. McVicar has been in the opera producing business for a good while, long enough, I believe, to know that de Niese is ill equipped as a singing actor to portray Cleopatra, a role that requires much more subtlety and steel than "diva". To be fair, I have not heard Ms. de Niese for a few years since the Glyndebourne production of "Poppea" in 2008 and she was about 6-7 years younger at the time of this particular "Cesare" production. Ach, this casting sure made her career!

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