Handel: Julius Caesar

Our rating 
1.0 out of 5 star rating 1.0

LABELS: Koch International
WORKS: Julius Caesar
PERFORMER: David Sabella, Sujung Kim, Johnny Maldonado, Malin Fritz, Robert Crowe, David StonemanVirginia Opera/Peter Mark
CATALOGUE NO: 3-7406-2
My chief complaint against this recording is that it cuts nearly 90 minutes from one of Handel’s greatest operas. Other causes for concern: the information that this is an ‘abridged’ version is printed only in the accompanying booklet; no timings are given on the outer packaging (or inside!), nor is it stated that this is only a two-CD set. Virginia Opera has truncated Handel’s original three acts into two, omitting some dozen arias on the grounds of sustaining ‘dramatic momentum’. Whatever the arguments for making such cuts in live performance – and I tend towards Winton Dean’s view that in Handel the arias are the drama – there is surely no excuse for perpetuating this butchery on CD. People buy opera recordings to listen to the music, not the plot. To make matters worse, the performances are extremely lacklustre. The orchestra is much smaller than Handel specified; the playing lacks finesse; the singers tend to overload the arias with strident emoting. All very undramatic! That there is already a superlative recording of the complete Giulio Cesare by René Jacobs, Concerto Köln and a stellar cast of soloists (Harmonia Mundi) is the final reason why this travesty would be better forgotten. Graham Lock