ALBUM TITLE: Handel: Giulio Cesare
WORKS: Giulio Cesare
PERFORMER: Graham Pushee, Yvonne Kenny, Richard Alexander, Rosemary Gunnm Elizabeth Campbell, Andrew Dalton, Australian Opera & Ballet Orchestra, Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: 2053599
This lavish production by Mexican director Francisco Negrin blends imagery from the Classical world with some modern touches. The use of choreography enhances a staging in which every character has a clear idea of who they are and how they need to react to the swiftly shifting fortunes allotted them by the plot. It’s handsome, dramatic and chic.
Yvonne Kenny as Cleopatra in particular has fun singing an aria while naked in her bath of asses’ milk. She’s as adept with a bath towel as she is with her coloratura, fortunately, and so never embarrasses herself. She also has, by some distance, the finest voice on show, though most of her fellow principals know exactly what to do with less glamorous instruments.
As Caesar, countertenor Graham Pushee may lack an ingratiating timbre but he’s an intelligent singer and a keen actor. The dignity of Rosemary Gunn’s Cornelia is not substantially lessened by her rather grey tone, and despite occasional insecurities Elizabeth Campbell’s Sesto carries through his revenge of his father Pompey with appropriately teenage bravado. As the villainous Ptolemy, Andrew Dalton’s countertenor is vocally slight, but his boo-hiss factor is high. Richard Hickox draws credible period style from the non-specialist orchestra, selects consistently effective tempos and maintains musical flow. Picture quality and filming are both strong, though there’s only a single booklet note for documentation. George Hall