ALBUM TITLE: Handel
WORKS: Ciulio Cesare (in English)
PERFORMER: Janet Baker, Valerie Masterson, Sarah Walker, Delia Jones; ENO Chorus & Orchestra/Charles Mackerras;dir. John Copley (studio recording, 1984)
CATALOGUE NO: 100 308
John Copley’s innovative 1979 production of Julius Caesar for ENO was brave in its simplicity and dignity. And who better for the latter than the supreme Janet Baker in the title role? This DVD is a transfer of a film version made under studio conditions for Channel 4 in 1984. It looks a little too much like the BBC’s studio adaptations of Shakespeare, but the new technology means that it sounds better than it did on VHS.
A few rough edges remain. The ENO Chorus is horribly strident,
Sarah Walker is not an ideal Cornelia, either visually or vocally, and Valerie Masterson is the weakest link, not least because of some poor intonation made worse by some bad editing (and dubbing?). Yet Mackerras oversees the music-making with both energy and decorum, although the English text and use of modern instruments may offend purists. The Arthaus cover proudly proclaims the inclusion of a 36-page booklet. Apart from a track-listing, inadequate cast biographies and a reprint of the end titles, there are in fact only four pages of material in English, and these are barely worth reading. The performance, flawed though it is, remains rewarding enough to speak for itself. David Vickers