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Handel: Julio César [Reino Unido] [Blu-ray]
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"David McVicar's production of Giulio Cesare manages to combine serious insight with entertainment, bringing Handel's masterpiece to life in a powerful, convincing and highly intelligent way. In every line of the complex narrative the subtle nuances are apparent, reflecting perfectly the transparent and exquisite nature of Handel's musical expression. Filmed in High Definition and recorded in true surround sound, the outstanding singing of the all-star cast, led by a superb Sarah Connolly, and the vivid playing of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under the energising baton of William Christie reveal the colour and dramatic character of Handel's music in a most delightful manner.
<h3 class=""productDescriptionSource"">Press Reviews
"...a lively and imaginative production, directed by the ever resourceful David McVicar, enchanted and amused..there was so much good acting, often whilst singing difficult and controlled coloratura." (Musical Opinion)
"Christie conducts Handel beguilingly - in fact, I d go so far as to suggest that nobody does Handel better. Christie drew brisk playing from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, crisp and punchy, yet he also carried the slow tempos with magical stillness. But the performance was about much more than sound alone: underneath the OAE's sheen there was an internalized musical depth to each of the numbers." (Opera)
"Extravagantly laid out on three DVDs, the Opus Arte version is important in offering a fine period performance of this most popular of the Handel operas. William Christie conducts the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and an outstanding cast in an account at once scholarly, lively and refreshing, a live recording of the 2005 production at Glyndebourne." (The Penguin Guide)
"...the irrepressible Danielle de Niese (who is accorded a delightful 22-minute narrative on her Glyndebourne experience among the extras here). Her vocal command and stage presence are spectacular in every sense..." (Gramophone)
Sarah Connolly (Cesare)
Angelika Kirchschlager (Sesto)
Danielle de Niese (Cleopatra)
Christophe Dumaux (Tolomeo)
Patricia Bardon (Cornelia)
Christopher Maltman (Achilla)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; William Christie
Stage Director: David McVicar
Catalogue Number: OABD7024D
Date of Performance: 2005
Running Time: 305 minutes
Sound: 5.0 DTS Surround; PCM Stereo
Aspect Ratio: 1080i High Definition / 16:9
Subtitles: EN, FR, DE, ES, IT
Label: Opus Arte"
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Sin duda, y ya centrándonos en esta versión de Glyndebourne, también ayuda la experta batuta del maestro William Christie (referencia incuestionable cuando de música barroca se trata), así como un elenco extraordinario de cantantes, sin olvidarnos de la brillante puesta en escena (aunque en este punto siempre podemos discutir si es lícito salirse de las coordenadas temporales que marca el libreto, como de forma demasiado habitual se hace) y la extraordinaria calidad de imagen y sonido del bluray.
En definitiva, obra maestra absoluta, de obligada visión para los amantes de la ópera (en realidad, de la música) y por supuesto una obra (y esta versión en concreto) para tener y además guardar en un lugar privilegiado de nuestra videoteca.
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But I have to mention that my husband (and a classically-trained musician!) was bored to death. I explained that Handel just kept writing and writing and the people onstage had to do something during that time.
I have never seen a more exquisite rendition. Not only the lead roles, all of which were absolutely fabulous, but certainly they were outstanding. The one who played Cleopatra - Danielle de Niese - go online and look her up as well as the ones who played Cesare and Tolomeo. As Sarah Connelly pointed out, it took her twenty-five years to become respected as a top singer "overnight."
I loved, loved, loved the choreography. And each person in every single role looked to me as though you could not have chosen better.
This is a keeper. But you have to love opera in the first place and realize how much bad staging is going on today, to hope to "modernize" and therefore appeal to a younger generation. I doubt whether that will do it. What does do it is excellent acting, not just standing on a stage and singing. This is just wonderful, but that is only my opinion.
The star of this production is Sarah Connolly. The honeyed hue of her voice is perfectly suited to the role of Cesare, and she sings the role in a way that can only be described as absolutely alluring and utterly beautiful. She conveys, both through her voice and stage presence, a full and richly textured portrayal of her character. I can't imagine how anyone could watch this performance and not be convinced she is the foremost Cesare of our time.
The present fetish for countertenors has lead to many companies shying away from casting a woman as Cesare, and audiences are missing out because of this fad. Why cast an aging, technically inconsistent countertenor, (e.g., David Daniels, Andreas Scholl) as your Giulio Cesare when you could have someone like Sarah Connolly, or even countertenor Christophe Dumaux (more on him later), either of whom have both the voice and stage presence necessary to carry off the role. Having seen both David Daniels and Andreas Scholl in the role in past years, I have to say that Sarah Connolly's Cesare was utterly more convincing as Cesare and much more virile than either Daniels or Scholl, who come across as vocally weak and dramatically impotent, which is hardly convincing for Cesare, who is apparently strong enough to be dictator of Rome. In my mind, only Connolly's performance conveys this strength, which is essential to understanding Cesare's character in the opera.
That having been said, the other real news in this production is the outstanding performance of Christophe Dumaux as Tolomeo--a role in which he is now quite comfortable, having given over 100 performances in the role at major houses worldwide. Unlike Daniels and Scholl, Dumaux has a strong, powerful voice that seems fully capable and secure throughout his range, both in the highest notes and the lowest. Even at the top of his register, there is a certain resonance to his voice that gives it a strong, natural sounding quality that in no way seems forced or artificial. And there is seamless integration between his lower chest voice and the upper head voice. The solid timbre of his voice comes across as almost Podleś-like, but with a much more masculine quality to the voice and a more confined range. His performance as Tolomeo was captivating, and it has evolved considerably since the recording of this DVD given the number of times he has performed the role. Tolomeo is a role that can be played from a variety of angles with equal success, but the characterization he uses in this performance, as an immature, childish, sexually-frustrated tyrant, is both engaging and entertaining. While his voice lacks the beauty of Connolly's, Dumuax will undoubted make a fantastic Cesare when he decides to move on to that role.
The murdered Pompey's wife, Cornelia, and son, Sesto, are sung by Irish mezzo-soprano Patricia Bardon and Austrian mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager, respectively. Both deliver stunning and moving renditions of their arias and the pair of them lend real dramatic credibility to this production. While Danielle di Niese's flippant, dancing Cleopatra seems cartoonish compared with the rest of the portrayals in this production, the absurdity of her rendition is reigned in by the many poignant moments brought about by Bardon and Kirchschlager as they plot against Tolomeo to avenge the killing of Pompey. Christopher Maltman brings a certain Mozartian flare to his coy portrayal of Achilla, Tolomeo's general. Another young countertenor, Rachid Ben Abdeslam, also gives a solid performance in the role of Nireno.
William Christie leads the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment a perfectly executed, and at times creative, interpretation of Handel's score. Christie's tempos are flawless throughout, and although some might be a bit unsettled by his choice of tempo in places (e.g., a very slow and deliberate "Va tacito e nacasto"), but these departures from the more conventional tempos are all well reasoned and result in an interpretation of his frequently heard score that is both thoughtful and a delight to the ear.
McVicar's choice to set the production in British colonial Egypt is a clever twist, adding an additional layer of meaning and interpretation to this opera seria.
Audio quality on this DVD is excellent with 5.1 surround sound available. Video quality is good for a DVD, but I do wish they would reissue this performance on Blu-ray as well.
I have no idea if this is true or not, but I've heard multiple rumors that his performance is soon be released on CD and as MP3. If this audio release does actually transpire, this 2005 Giulio Cesare from Glyndebourne will be the definitive recording of reference of the opera.
The production portrays Caesar as a 19th century British imperialist, but the conceit is worn lightly and is generally successful. (I can't explain the anachronistic dirigibles, destroyers, and ocean liner that appear in the harbor of Alexandria at various points.) In the documentary that accompanies the performance, director David McVicar acknowledges that some of Cleopatra's stage action is inspired by Bollywood films, but even these scenes do not seem inappropriate. Remember that other serious Baroque and classical operas, such as Serse and Don Giovanni, contain humorous elements.
The two protagonists could not be bettered, either vocally or dramatically. Sarah Connolly dominates the stage, moves with a masculine swagger, and makes a most effective Caesar. And it's no wonder that the older man falls for the beautiful, funny, flirtatious, and phenomenally talented 26-year old Danielle de Niese. Patricia Bardon (as Cornelia, widow of Pompey) and Angelika Kirschlager (as Sesto, Pompey's son) carry the tragic element as they work to avenge the murdered king.
This DVD of "Giulio Cesare" joins the Handel honor roll, which includes Christie's "Hercules," Christophe Rousset's "Serse," and Trevor Pinnock's "Tamerlano."