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George Frideric Handel - Giulio Cesare (Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2005) [Blu-ray]  [Region Free]
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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.
"...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)
CastSarah 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 ChristieStage Director: David McVicar
Catalogue Number: OABD7024DDate of Performance: 2005Running Time: 305 minutesSound: 5.0 DTS Surround; PCM StereoAspect Ratio: 1080i High Definition / 16:9Subtitles: EN, FR, DE, ES, ITLabel: Opus Arte
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Much that I liked the others, it's this one that I wanted to have a copy of. Do I mind that the costumes aren't ancient Egyptian? No. That's because the singing is excellent and the direction makes up for the 'let's pause the action and have a character repeat the same line, usually about how unhappy they are, thirty times' format that was how operas were done in Handel's day.
If you want a Handel opera DVD, it's this and the ENO Xerxes that should be your first choices.
If, like me, you're a fan of Handel then you'll also find the DVD musically excellent. The singing is first class and the orchestration, under William Christie's conducting of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, superb.
McVicar has gone out to entertain in this production and achieved it. Danielle de Niese's performance as Cleopatra is my favourite of a strong cast - sexy, audaciously acted and beautifully sung - perfect.
Some of the DVD's extra features are very worth watching too: in particular the 50 minute documentary featuring interviews with the whole cast was very informative and interesting.
All the cast were on top form, and the desire on the part of
the production team to make Handel's music both seductive
and eternal was a success in every way.
Sarah Connolly's Cesare is a truly manly portrayal and is
the perfect partner for the Celopatra of Danielle de Niese
whose sheer sexual vivaciosness and sublime, uninhibited
singing and dancing reflect a rare talent.
Angelika Kirchschlager's Sesto was a delight to behold.
Kirchschlager managed to convey Sesto's grief and lust
for revenge for his slain father, and the duet at the
end of Act One between Sesto and his mother played by
Patrica Bardon was dramatically moving to say the least.
However, another of the many highlights of this production
occurred in the Third Act just after Sesto has completed his
revenge by killing his father's slayer Tolomeo, played by
an outrageously camp, but superb Christophe Durmaux:
after knelling by the corpse of Tolomeo, Cornelia,
Sesto's mother smears Tolomeo's blood across Sesto's face
while singing of the warrior-like affinity between a
dead father and his living son, thereby highlighting
the savage impulses that linger in the majority of the
carachters in this opera. Such a scene also adds to
the underlying sense of eroticism which runs through
the whole production.
This DVD is also enhanched by two documentaries which
offer great insight into the opera and behind the scenes
activities at Glynebourne.
All in all then a great achievment, and, after watching
this DVD I became even more convinced that, when done
well, 18th century opera reigns supreme.
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