Handel: Giulio Cesare

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Opus Arte OA
ALBUM TITLE: Handel
WORKS: Giulio Cesare
PERFORMER: Sarah Connolly, Angelika Kirchschlager, Danielle de Niese, Christophe Dumaux, Patricia Bardon, Christopher Maltman, Richid Ben Abdeslam; Glyndebourne Chorus; OAE/William Christie; dir. David McVicar (Glyndebourne, 2005)
CATALOGUE NO: 0950 D (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 anamorphic)
They came, they saw, they conquered. William Christie, conducting, and David McVicar, directing, created one of the great Giulio Cesare productions of our time when they unveiled their riveting reinvention of Handel’s opera seria at Glyndebourne last summer. Virtuoso at every level, its skill lay in combining a Baroque framework with Bollywood exuberance, fierce violence with near farce in an evening of theatre which determined to reinstate Handel as entertainer supreme.

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And this record on film, in which the camera zooms into tiny telling details as deftly as the production’s own scene changes, is a worthy matching masterwork. Its extras include Ferenc van Damme’s elegantly made features on the creative teamwork, and on Danielle de Niese, the Cleopatra. She, like the entire cast, was handpicked by McVicar, and her youthfulness and dusky sensuality give her performance a rare truthfulness. Her Caesar is a woman: the decision to cast a mezzo in the castrato role works superbly well in the voice and body language of Sarah Connolly. A deeply thoughtful Angelika Kirchschlager and Patricia Bardon are the anguished Sesto and Cornelia.

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The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment breathes as if it were a singer, with the singers; and the emotional energy of the arias’ da capo sections and of the dance routines is irresistible. Hilary Finch.