Sunday, 30 March 2008

85. George Friedric Handel - Giulio Cesare (1724)


Title: Giulio Cesare
Performer: Magdalena Kozena, Marijana Mijanovic, Anne Sofie Von Otter
Director: Marc Minkowski
Year: 2003
Length: 3 hours 30 minutes


We haven't had an opera in quite a while, but the wait was definitely worth it. Giulio Cesare is a pretty great opera seria by Handel. This music is just stupendous, and even if it lacks spectacular choruses, having only three very short ones throughout the thing the arias are so beautiful that they make up for it.

There are problems in this opera, but they are dictated by the medium of opera seria, more than by Handel's ability. For example, when watching this opera the practice of making arias da capo can at times be slightly boring. The fact that each area, even if it lasts for 9 minutes consists of about 4 lines of text endlessly repeated can become tiring. This problem is less obvious when listening to a recording, however. Still, when listening to the recording the recitatives are quite superfluous unless you understand Italian. While they do move the story along when you watch the opera, they do little in musical terms.

If you want to see this you can do no better than get the William Christie version recorded from the Glyndebourne Festival. The recorded version recommended is equally good, however.

Handel's areas are fiery and the instrumental music is just as important as the singer's part, truly beautiful and affecting music. The emotional aspect of this Opera is also much more developed and engaging than any opera we have had here before, this is essential, and it is hard to think that Handel's operas were forgotten for 200 years.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

The roles of Cesare and Cleopatra, sung by the castrato Senesino and famous soprano Francesca Cuzzoni respectively, and which encompass eight arias and two recitatives accompagnati each, totally dispose of the vocal capabilities of the singers. Cornelia and Sesto are more static because they are completely taken by their primary emotions, she with pain because of her husband's death and constantly constrained to defend herself from Achilla and Tolomeo, and he consumed by vengeance for his father's death.

Cleopatra is a multifaceted character: she uses at first her womanly wiles to seduce Cesare and gain the throne of Egypt, and then becomes totally engaged in the love affair with Cesare. She has great arias of immense dramatic intensity Se pietà di me non senti (II, 8) and Piangerò la sorte mia (III, 3). Sensual character is described magnificently in the aria V'adoro, pupille, in which Cleopatra, in the guise of Lidia, appears to Cesare circondated by the Muses of Parnassus (II, 2). This number calls for two orchestras: one is an ensemble scene with strings with sordino, oboe, tiorba, harp, bassoons and viola da gamba concerante.

Va tacito, from the William Christie production, amazing:


blondbearnl said...

wow, superb clip of that live performance at glyndebourne indeed, william christie has such beautiful arrangements and productions! who was singing here? have to check out that marc minkowski production. i have many of his cds, but as this one has my all-time favourite mezzo-soprano singing: magdalene kozena it's definitel;y worth checking out. enjoyed previous collaborations of minkowski and kozena. haven't seen an opera as yet, but seeing this clip tells me i should save up some more money to give it a shot. last year i saw a great production of handel's israel in egypt with emmanuelle haim conducting. handel has so many great works and his arias, melodies are so majestic and joyful at times.

Francisco Silva said...

The DVd is definitely worth it, probably the best Opera DVD I have. Do get it :)

Magdalena Kozena is great :)