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Handel: Giulio Cesare Box set

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  • Performer: Marie-Nicole Lemieux & Karina Gauvin & Alan Curtis
  • Conductor: Alan Curtis
  • Composer: Georg Friedrich Haendel
  • Audio CD (5 Nov 2012)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Naive Mid
  • ASIN: B008R5OJXE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 210,332 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Ouverture
2. Viva Il Nostro Alcide
3. Presti Ormai L'egizia Terra
4. Recitativo
5. Empio, Dirò, Tu Sei
6. Recitativo
See all 28 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Recitativo
2. Son Nata a Lagrimar
3. Recitativo
4. Sinfonia
5. Recitativo
6. Sinfonia
See all 27 tracks on this disc
Disc: 3
1. L'aure Che Spira
2. Recitativo
3. Dal Fulgor Di Questa Spada
4. Sinfonia
5. Recitativo
6. Domerò La Tua Fierezza
See all 23 tracks on this disc

Product Description

Product Description

Following the much-loved 'Streams of pleasure' album, this is the second recording resulting from the collaboration between Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Karina Gauvin and Alan Curtis' Complesso Barocco. This studio recording followed a successful tour in Europe in Autumn 2011 of France, Germany and Austria. Headed by Marie-Nicole Lemieux and Karina Gauvin in the principal roles, the full vocal cast is amazing: Emöke Barath, Romina Basso, Johannes Weiser... Once again, Alan Curtis shows why he is considered one of the finest exponents of Handel's music.


As usual, all his [Curtis] singers are a joy to listen to ... an excellent and enjoyable recording. --Violet Greene, Early Music Review April 2013

Marie-Nicole Lemieux s vocal shading as Cesare is vivid and characterful exploiting the audible break into her lowest register for urgent effect in Al lampo dell armi and relishing the masterclass-in-decption that is Va tacito ... Curtis and his band are impeccable stylists, and the orchestral performance here is a delight. --Alexandra Coghlan, Opera March 2013

Customer Reviews

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By C. Wake on 4 Jan 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Like Captain Scott, Alan Curtis has crossed over uncharted territories of Handel Opera where no-one else has gone before, only to find now he has reached "Giulio Cesare", that others have got there first; well over thirty others indeed (if we count the DVDs). However much one respects Curtis' pioneering achievements, when there are at least three other respectable historically-informed performances of this opera available on CD, we are entitled to ask, does this recording have anything distinctive to say ?
Singers first. The Cleopatra (Karina Gauvin) is one of the best on CD, very competent and stylish, making the Queen a strong character, as Handel meant her to be. The Caesar (Marie-Nicole Lemieux) is better than I expected. Lemieux has a strong low contralto (the sort of voice we associate more with Brahms or Mahler than Handel) but she has worked hard to contain her natural wobble, and she brings off her purely expressive numbers well - "Va tacito", for example. But she can't cope with the coloratura Handel wrote for Senesino, partly, I suspect, because her voice lies a couple of tones lower than his, and his fast lines cut across her break. So "Al lampo dell'armi", and much else, sounds very laboured. Kristina Hammarstrom (for Petrou) is a much better fit for Senesino, or Jennifer Lamore (on the Jacobs recording).
The Sesto, Emoke Barath (a new name to me), is good (Sestos usually are). Romina Basso sings Cornelia with style and skill, but so powerfully that she becomes the dominant voice in the opera, which is a bit strange. Basso would make a more natural Cesare, or Tolomeo at least (the part she takes on the Petrou recording). The actual Tolomeo is an embarrassment - an Italian falsettist of the school of Hinge & Bracket: his presence takes the recording down to 3 stars for me.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By JM Olmesdahl on 19 Dec 2012
Format: Audio CD
After a promising overture, establishing again just what a stylish Handelian Alan Curtis can be, disappointment sets in quickly with a dreary-sounding opening chorus (Were they tired!?). This is supposed to be a chorus of exaltation setting the stage for Caesar's entry. But I find none of that here. Its sounds quite perfunctory without any of the vitality found, say, in Minkowski's urgent account. The leisurely pacing chosen by Curtis doesn't help things much either.

Then, enter Caesar (Marie-Nicole Lemieux). This is very much a contralto's assumption of the role and, while Lemieux does a good enough job of it, her thickset voice comes at the expense of vocal agility when compared to singers like Mijanovic for Minkowski or Connolly for Christie. I couldn't help wondering whether she wouldn't have been better cast as the lugubrious Cornelia? She certainly sounds far weightier than Romina Basso (the set's actual Cornelia). So, this is very much a Caesar that is given contralto treatment and I sometimes found myself craving a little more athleticism in the voice. Again, I come back to Mijanovic who has a more distinctive vocal personality, whatever the transgressions might be that some have criticized her for.

Karina Gauvin is likely to be a draw card for many looking into this set. While her singing is accomplished, I don't find that she offers up a particularly distinctive Cleopatra. Her aria, Non disperar, chi sa? doesnt come with much sense of scheming or seductiveness. Her V'adoro, pupille, delivered as it is in its somewhat long-winded way, fails to move. It all sounds like Gauvin as we are used to hearing her, not an enigmatic Cleopatra.

A delight of this set is the singing of Emoke Baráth as Sesto.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful By WH CHARLTON-PERKINS on 9 Jan 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I find this new 3-CD set of Giulio Cesare, with Il Complesso Barocco conducted as ever by Handel speciliast, Alan Curtis, an unqualified triumph, both sonically and musically.

French Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux is stunning in the title role. She turns in a towering performance, full of passion, fire and masculine swagger. Sample her richly textured singing of the great hunting aria, 'Va tacito e nascosto' (CD 1 track 26), the resplendid obbligato horn passages well to the fore, not least in the fine cadenza that rounds it off so triumphantly.

As Cleopatra, Lemieux's compatriot, Karina Gauvin, is predictably ravishing. Sustaining her reputation as today's reigning queen of Handel opera performance, the soprano - I beg to differ with another reviewer on this site - successfully runs the gambit of emotions the role demands through each of the eight glorious arias Handel wrote for his muse, Francesca Cuzzoni.

Madame Gauvin's heart-stopping singing in the opera's famous seduction number, V'adoro, pupille, is the loveliest I've heard. Ditto her heartfelt renderings of her two great laments, 'Se pieta', and 'Piangero, la sorte mia'; she turns in a delicately etched performance of 'La tua mia stella sei' and a spectacular account of Cleopatra's final show-stopper, 'Da tempeste il legno infranto'.

Romina Basso's gravely beautliful contralto is admirably suited to the music of the widow, Cornelia, and contrasts effectively with the youthful sounding soprano of Emöke Baráth as her son, Sesto. The rest of the cast do not disappoint.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Why Giulio Cesare? 15 Jan 2013
By Joshilyn Hoisington - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I add my voice to those who found this recording a little lifeless. As has been mentioned in another review, it's a tough opera to present on CD. It's long, and difficult to cast. Cesare presents all kinds of problems as far as casting goes. To put it simply, there will never be another Senesino, the castrato for whom the role was written. So what kind of voice, that exists now, is right for Cesare? Somebody like Andreas Scholl, who seems to me to be THE stage Cesare of our time, is probably not the perfect choice for a CD Cesare. On stage, he is a tall, handsome presence. But while his technique is nearly flawless, his timbre is perhaps, at times, not entirely suitable. For a CD recorded Cesare, stage presence is irrelevant. Only the voice matters. Curtis selected Lemieux for his Cesare, and at times it seems like a good choice. Her lower range is strong, and the slower arias are rendered prettily, if a bit dull. Lemieux seems not to be able to handle the fast coloratura required in arias like Al Lampo Dell'Armi. She was not able to articulate the notes as written and substituted her own composition for many of the long melismas. She is better on Quel Torrente, where Curtis takes a rather ponderous tempo.

This brings me to my sort of ultimate question: why add a recording of this opera with nothing new to say? I appreciate Alan Curtis's dedication to recording Handel. He has provided up-to-date recordings of plenty of rare operas. Where else could someone hear Deidamia, or even, say Fernando? But there are several very good Giulio Cesare recordings out there already: Jacobs, Minkowski, Petrou, et al. There is nothing new about this recording. If Curtis decided to, say, try a countertenor as Cesare, that might have been an interesting contribution to the catalog. If he had been experimental with tempi, or tried a radical rethinking of the treatments of the recits, it might be worthwhile to add another recording to the pile. But this is simply a by-the-numbers recording.

Speaking of countertenors, a word should be said about the Tolomeo here, Filippo Mineccia. Curtis has categorically eschewed countertenors on his recordings for a few years now, for whatever reason. So it is strange that when he finally drafts one, he turns not to great countertenor, but a problematic one. Mineccia's timbre is not for everyone. I happen to love most countertenor voices, and welcome them on almost any recording, but Mineccia's middle register is distinctly unpleasant to me. His upper extension is quite pretty and powerful, and even evokes Jaroussky at its best. But anything below the staff is hollow, and sounds like he's merely hanging on rather than a master of technique. His coloratura is quite impressive, though. If you don't like countertenors, you may wish to avoid this recording.

The rest of the singers are well-described in the other more critical reviews.

The recording quality is another puzzle. At times the sound is quite boxy, particularly the recits. The orchestra sounds very slick, almost as if they are a MIDI program. What's odd is that, occasionally it bursts forth from this box. Empio Diro Tu Sei for instance is a fiery tour de force from the orchestra--the sound of the cellos evokes the sound of a head being loosed from a body, appropriate for Cesare finding Pompey's head delivered to him. Other Curtis recordings seem to be more naturally engineered. I don't know if this is a record label thing?

In summary, if you have Jacobs, Minkowski, or Petrou, there is little reason to purchase this unless a favorite singer is in the cast. If you don't like countertenors in general, you probably will skip Tolomeo's arias. If engineering issues bother you, you might not enjoy the boxy and overly-slick production.

I would prefer that Curtis continue to give us new recording of Handel operas that are under-recorded. Poro, for instance, needs a good modern recording. Curtis did concert performances of Orlando with Iestyn Davies--that seems like a great potential CD.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
By Edward Parry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
"Giulio Cesare in Egitto" is, deservedly, one of Handel's most highly-regarded operas and one only needs to listen to this recording to understand why. Alan Curtis has brought together a superb cast which truly does this Baroque masterpiece justice.

There is not a weak link in the cast. I am not always enamoured of Marie-Nicole Lemieux' voice (her vibrato can be a bit wayward at times), but her singing here is exemplary, strong and forthright with perfect control. Karina Gauvin is arguably the best soprano Cleopatra on disc! She has a truly beautiful voice and her singing is an absolute joy to listen to from beginning to end. This lady just seems to improve with each new recording she releases! Romina Basso, as Cornelia, sings in her usual lovely way, bringing out the pathos and intrinsically regal nature of Pompey's widow. I was already familiar with these three ladies (indeed, they were the main reasons I picked up this recording in the first place), but soprano Emoke Barath's was a name I did not know. What an incredible find she is! Her portayal of Sesto is simply wonderful, bringing across his yearning for heroic deeds and longing for vengeance with her sensitive singing. Her's is certainly a name to look out for in the future.

All other cast members are well and truly the equals of those mentioned above. As always Il Complesso Barocco plays with intelligence and precision under their excellent conductor. To my way of thinking this is the "Giulio Cesare" I have been waiting for. As I stated in the title of this review, it is as near to perfect as a recording can be!

I unreservedly recommend this recording to all lovers of Baroque opera!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Excelleny, but not great 27 Feb 2013
By VM - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Like others here I was expecting to like this a bit more than I do. The performance is excellent, and had I never heard the competition, I would have found it thrilling and wonderful. But having the Jacobs performance in my collection for nearly two decades it is difficult not to make comparisons and find the present recording wanting.

On Jacobs Larmore reigns supreme. Her timbre may not be as suited as Lemieux's to the role, but her singing has such dash and brilliance that she leaves the Canadian alto in the dust. Lemieux is excellent for the bulk of the part, and acts well also, but at times can sound a bit heavy and uninspired. The weakest part oh her performance is "Se in fioroto" which lacks charm, facility and an easy trill. Larmore is fabulous here. For the rest she ranges from very good to excellent, but there is an overall feeling that she is jut not at her considerable best.

Gauvin is superb, totally eclipsing Schlick on Jacobs. But after the initial shock at hearing Schlick's metallic little voice, I was able to warm to her and her great sense of style, technical control, and identification with the role. Gauvin, though, is across the board better in every way. She successfully presents the ironoc playfulness of the young queen, then her seductiveness, then deepens her interpretation with stunning "Se pieta" and "Piangero"

Romia Basso is a superb Cornelia, but she's up against Bernarda Fink's benchmark performance for Jacobs. Still, she has beautiul tone, a fine technique, and makes the listener feel why all the men fall in love with her.

The rest of he cat is very strong and stylish. Everyone can trill, but all have a habit of not completing them all the time. Ornamentation is tasteful, interesting, even exciting. Everyone's coloratura is clean, but occasionally too careful.

Curtis conducts with great sense of style, but lacks he panache of Jacobs. I found him better in the more serious sections, less good in the scenes requiring charm, so there is less chiaraoscura than with Jacobs.

Orchestra is excellent, sound very good.

I'm glad I have an alternative to Jacobs and a different, possibly more sombre, view of the score. If buying only one CESARE, this would certainly suffice, especially for Gauvin and Basso, but I would still say my allegiance is with Jacobs overall.
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Great Expectations 20 Dec 2012
By luisamillera - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I was awaiting this eagerly after a wonderful experience with Alcina by Curtis and his band. I found this recording surprisingly dull. There is a sense of placidness to the proceedings and conductor and singers just seem to go through the motions. This robs any sense of drama from the listening experience. When you add the lack of any real vocal bravado and elegance with the lines, you end up with a rather lifeless rendering of this fantastic opera. The singers are all high quality with star timbres but are strangely uninvolved for some reason.

I had high hopes for the Cesare; I enjoyed Lemieux in the Vivaldi recordings over the years. She brings her same rich voice and astonishing facility in the lower registers to this piece but she sounds oddly miscast. The low notes seem to be forced and disconnected to the rest of her range and the vibrato can be distracting. It's frustrating as I find her voice a lot richer and more suitable to this part than Jennifer Larmore's on the Jacobs set but Larmore sings with so much more cavalier abandon and sprezzatura that is the essence of the part. And when compared to the astonishing Kristina Hammerstrom on the Petrou set, Lemieux certain falls far behind in terms of elegance, charm and refinement. Lemieux has a fabulous instrument, but she doesn't really rise to the admittedly stiff competition in this part.

Gauvin's Cleopatra is just plain boring, if I may be blunt. Vocally she doesn't seem to be entirely comfortable. Her voice seems to have taken on a darker, deeper hue that I haven't noticed in her other recordings but her upper register also now sounds rather tight and constricted. Opportunities for the voice to soar just aren't taken and Gauvin's Cleopatra is a dutiful but very grounded affair. Her voice lacks the natural warmth of Kozena, who hypnotised with her Se Pieta on the Minkowski set or the clarity and pluckiness of Schlick for Jacobs. She's a lot better than the lady on the Petrou recording in terms of technique and tone but I was expecting a lot more from Gauvin -- maybe Cleopatra just isn't her role.

The supporting roles suffer from a similar lack of purpose and direction. Bernada Fink and Romina Basso remain unsurpassed.

I guess the one thing I did take away from this recording is a realisation of just how darn good the Jacobs recording is. Other recordings have had its moments (Petrou's inspired casting of Hammerstrom as Cesare) but the Jacobs remains the standard. Fans of the individual singers here might want this as further documentation of their singing....but I find little about this to recommend to friends. There are other studio recordings and DVDs I would put before this set. But I guess you can never have too many Cesare recordings.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Five stars, even if not yet perfect. 8 Oct 2014
By Abert - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Everyone seems to have his/her favourite 'Giulius Cesare in Egitto', but I don't, having heard many other 'classic' recordings, e.g. Minkowski, Jacobs, Haim, the old Richter 1970's 'old style', Dantone (not commercially released),....and now this Alan Curtis, the most recent output.
The title role of Giulius Cesare, a role written for an alto castrato called Senesino, is either sung, in modern times, by mezzo-sopranos or countertenors. Few countertenor can do justice, though, including the great Andreas Scholl, who is visually ideal but vocally merely adequate. Even so, mezzo-sopranos fare little better, either. The range of Cesare's arias lies in the low mezzo-soprano fach, but not quite contralto. Majinovic for Minkowski is my biggest disappointment - the voice is gleamless and dull, with no flexibility for dynamics.
Here, the French singer Marie Lemieux is a real contralto. While the contralto role in this opera is Cornelia, Lemieux is successful in depicting a character whose tonality is utterly different from Cornelia. This is no meagre success for vocal portrayal of Giulius Cesare by a female singer. Lemieux's range may lie a tad lower than the role's tessitura, but in over 85% of the time she copes with the range really well, and her timbre is the most ideal for this role for performance in the original key (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is certainly dramatically the most cogent Cesare, but he sang an octave lower in bass-baritone). Lemieux's timbre is dark with a gleam in the lower range that Fink and Majinovic and Lamore all lack. This feature sets Lemieux's portrayal apart from all other ladies' vocal portrayals. For the high notes she is adequate but not vocally resplendent as her lower range. Luckily, such minor defect does not subtract substantially from the overall impression of her portrayal.
As her Cleopatra, fellow Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin sings expertly and dramatically, but I must admit that by this stage of her illustrious baroque career, Gauvin is more adept at the Strada roles of Handel than Cuzzoni roles. Her Cleopatra is still a force of nature, though, with finely polished expressivity throughout the different stages of the character's development. Her Se pietà di me non senti is so finely rendered that the illustrious former renditions are simply eclipsed by hers.
As Pompey's widow and son, Romina Basso is an expert but not affecting Cornelia. The feminity and pathos are subtly depicted, almost too subtly. As her son Sesto Pompey, young soprano Emoke Barath really steals the show. This is one of the most outstanding Sesto ever to be recorded, by far outshining the likes of Anne Sofie von Otter for Minkowski, who was caught too late in her illustrious career in that recording. Emoke Barath owns a juicy lyrical soprano voice, with a bright gleaming top and substantial middle range to carry Sesto's arias.
Many people heck out against Filippo Mineccia's Tolomeo, some thing that I cannot understand at all. This is one of the finest vocal portrayals of this villainous character ever in recordings. Mineccia is a character countertenor, and his vocal technique is first rate, with a keen dramatic sense to boot. The voice is plangent (luckily the Cesare is Lemieux), convincingly villainous and unscrupulous in one.
As Achilla, Johannes Weisser once again proves that he is a baroque bass baritone without peer. The dark and unfathomable timbre fills the sound system with gleaming resonance.
Alan Curtis conducts the score at a relatively crisp pace, making the drama even more vivid.
The only quibble that I have is that the forces of Curtis' Il Complesso Barocco is a bit on the lean side for a dramatic piece such as Giulius Cesare in Egitto.
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