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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funky, entertaining, and moving in equal measure
This is a different take on the story and in my view just as valid as the Glyndebourne production with which it has inevitably been compared. In a work like this, one of the greatest operas in the repertoire, nothing is definitive. The setting of the action in the basement of a gallery works very well, and the whole thing is hugely entertaining. Natalie Dessay is, as one...
Published on 26 Oct. 2012 by Robert A

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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quirky yet enjoyable
Handel's Giulio Cesare has always been a particular favourite of mine and I'm always curious to see and hear
new productions of the opera. I loved the novel approach of this production with its setting in a museum environment, in what I initially thought to be differing time zones (the opera like a projection from the past playing in the present) until Cleopatra...
Published on 9 Oct. 2012 by Marius G


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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funky, entertaining, and moving in equal measure, 26 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Handel: Giulio Cesare [DVD] [2012] (DVD)
This is a different take on the story and in my view just as valid as the Glyndebourne production with which it has inevitably been compared. In a work like this, one of the greatest operas in the repertoire, nothing is definitive. The setting of the action in the basement of a gallery works very well, and the whole thing is hugely entertaining. Natalie Dessay is, as one would expect, a funky Cleopatra (this is really *her* opera) but she sings her serious arias with great feeling: `piangerò la sorte mia' is most moving. She exudes a perky sexiness quite different from the sultry silkiness of Danielle de Niese -- I love both. Lawrence Zazzo makes an excellent Caesar: his long accompanied recitative after escaping from the sea is magnificent. Dominique Visse is predictably gauche as Nireno and makes the most of his scenes with Dessay. Isabel Leonard's Sesto is youthful and ardent -- perhaps a little too feminine -- and (s)he gets a warm ovation at the end. Cristophe Dumaux as Tolomeo lacks menace (he was better at Glyndebourne) but looks good and sings well. The only serious disappointment for me is Varduhi Abrahamyan as Pompey's widow Cornelia; her voice lacks firmness and she tends to squirm and swoon her way through the various attempts to seduce her -- not a patch on Patricia Bardon's nobly tragic performance at Glyndebourne. The band under Emmanuelle Haim play with style and panache with well-chosen tempi. I will return to this DVD quite often, I suspect, at least as often as to the Glyndebourne one and to alternatives on CD which I also have.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars (-) Does not achieve classic status though some fine singing by newbies., 5 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: Handel: Giulio Cesare [DVD] [2012] (DVD)
Giulius Cesare in Egitto is one of Handel's greatest operatic masterpieces, alongside the likes of Serse, Tamerlano, Rinaldo, Alcina, Rhodelinda, ..
Giulius Cesare has posed no small casting problems over the past decades of its revival. Cesare is composed for alto castrato (Senesino) and so is Tolomeo. In this production we have two countertenors filling the bills for these two major male characters, and this is a dramatically convincing arrangement.
Sesto, on the other hand, was a trouser role, being sung originally by a mezzo-soprano Margaretha Durastanti. In this production we have Isabel Leonard singing Sesto. Cleopatra was a role for coloratura soprano Francesca Cuzzoni. Nathalie Dessay is a natural choice for this role. Cornelia is a contralto role. Varduhi Abrahamyan brings dramatic conviction to this role with a slender figure and rich contralto voice.
This cast is about as good as one can hope for in this opera: Lawrence Zazzo in the titlerole is competent, if not outright great. Christophe Dumaux is as seasoned a Tolomeo as one could possibly hope for, and I wonder how many productions of this opera had him singing this role. Having said that, both singers had a considerably hard time juggling with Madam Haim's rather angular phrasing and hectic tempi, especially in the most florid passages of their arias.
Abrahamyan's Cornelia is rich in tone, but rather less affecting in terms of expressivity.
Her 'son' Isabel Leonard brings forth a glorious mezzo-soprano Sesto, with a voice to die for and a stage presence so boyish that even countertenors would but envy.
Yet despite all their vocal credentials, these characters are to more or less extent curtailed by the stage activities, either distracting the audience from their performances, or impeding their performances altogether.
Nathalie Dessay is the least affected by the stage businesses, being a very seasoned actress on stage. Her attire may be controversial, but her performance is convincing both vocally and dramatically, if not outright perfect.
A real surprise comes from the veteran character countertenor Dominique Visse in the relatively minor role of Nireno. This eunuch has never been better portrayed on stage as does Mr. Visse here.
On the whole, the production is not as successful as it aspired to be, and despite a comparatively capable cast, the show does not really pull off as it should.
If you want to see and hear new singers like Leonard and Abrahamyan, this DVD may be worth while. Otherwise, give this a pass would not be a big loss.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quirky yet enjoyable, 9 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: Handel: Giulio Cesare [DVD] [2012] (DVD)
Handel's Giulio Cesare has always been a particular favourite of mine and I'm always curious to see and hear
new productions of the opera. I loved the novel approach of this production with its setting in a museum environment, in what I initially thought to be differing time zones (the opera like a projection from the past playing in the present) until Cleopatra interacted with the staff - so I'm still thinking about it. Of course any new production on DVD is going to be compared with the superb Glyndebourne production with the sublime Sarah Connelly as Ceasar and the joyous Danielle de Niese as Cleopatra. I remember Danielle de Niese from the Paris Opera 2002 production with Marijana Mijanovic singing Caesar from the pit for an indisposed David Daniels while an actor took his place on stage. That was a marvellous production with touches of humour injected by the lifesize rubber crocodiles in their enclosure. This new Paris Opera production also has its moments of humour but I do take issue with the unnessesary hip grinding and crotch grabing of Ptolomey. We already know about his lascivious character, we don't need the visual illustration - it adds nothing and cheapens the opera. I don't mind Cleopatras prosthetic breast as it is in keeping with her costume and character, and no unnessesary attention is drawn to it.

As far as the singing is concerned there is the inevitable Glyndebourne comparison. While all the singing in the Paris Opera version is competent, it is I feel only Varduhi Abrahamyan as Cornelia and Isobel leonard (with a reminiscent Audrey Hepburn look)as Sesto who are truely inside their parts both vocally and visually. In the Glyndeboune production you feel as though everyone is there in the moment - it has a tightness and gravitas among the characters, and all the singing is consistent.
Emmanuelle Haim and her band do a fine job in the pit on period instruments. There is a lightness and elegance in her conducting which is very appealing.

I did enjoy this production and will view it again but it is the Glyndebourne version which I will return to time and again with relish. The Glyndebourne version sets a particular standard, as is usually the case with their productions, which makes it difficult to match.

So finally, I do recommend this enjoyable performance, but as an additional viewing option to the Glyndebourne performance.
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4.0 out of 5 stars However I fell in love with Rameau and decided to try Handel and I ..., 15 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: Handel: Giulio Cesare [DVD] [2012] (DVD)
I came late to Handel being a Wagnerian and with a prejudice against the baroque. However I fell in love with Rameau and decided to try Handel and I could not have chosen better. I am told that the finest is the Glyndebourne production but being a fan of Natalie Dessay I came with high expectations. They where met with the exception of a faint lack of real emotion from the orchestra and conductor. We probably needed a real Handel specialist.
. However I found the singing superb and the staging imaginative without being distracting. I shall certainly try some more Handel.
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BETTER THAN THE BEST, 29 Mar. 2013
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James H. Mehaffey (florida) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Handel: Giulio Cesare [DVD] [2012] (DVD)
i HAVE 6 DIFFERENT PRODUCTIONS OF THIS OPERA AAND THIS IS BY FAR THE BEST. the CAST IS PERFECT HOWEVER THE WORKMAN IN THE BACKGROUND DETRACT FROM THE PRODUCTION' i
I like using counter tenors rather than women in the castrotato roles. Better than short over weight women with paste on mustaches,
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 1 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Handel: Giulio Cesare [DVD] [2012] (DVD)
Good and positive trade. :-)
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 4 April 2013
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This review is from: Handel: Giulio Cesare [DVD] [2012] (DVD)
excellent
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Handel: Giulio Cesare [DVD] [2012]
Handel: Giulio Cesare [DVD] [2012] by Natalie Dessay (DVD - 2012)
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