Giulio Cesare: George Frideric Handel (1724)

Handel: Giulio Cesare

(directed by David McVicar, Glyndebourne, 20 July 2018)

It’s always nerve-racking when you go to see something you love live for the first time. What if it doesn’t live up to expectations? What if one of the cast has a sore throat? What if, horror of horrors, the manager comes onstage to announce a substitution? But at the same time, how can you resist? My opera buddy H and I had decided that we would pay virtually anything to see the revival of David McVicar’s marvellous Giulio Cesare at Glyndebourne, and our resolution was put to the test when the more affordable seats were snapped up within seconds after going on sale. However, our budget-stretching seats in row B were absolutely worth the cost. Many of the cast from the 2005 production returned, with Sarah Connolly triumphant in the title role, and we could admire every little detail. Coupled with a lavish picnic and a gang of equally excited friends (inevitably christened Team Giulio), it made for a perfect day out, and I can promise you that it did live up to all those months of anticipation.

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The Marriage of Figaro: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1786)

Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro

★★★★★

(Royal Opera House, via Vue Cinemas, 5 October 2015)

About a month ago I had a spate of ‘firsts’: my first Macbeth, in the striking film version and then, just a couple of days later, my first Figaro, thanks to the Royal Opera House’s excellent live cinema broadcasts. Heloise has been urging me to watch Figaro ever since I first expressed a cautious interest in opera about a year and a half ago. She can feel herself vindicated at last. Of course I would have loved to see the show in person, but thrift is of the essence and so I plumped for the cinema, and three hours of stunning close-ups and lush, intoxicating detail.

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The Abduction from the Seraglio: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1782)

Mozart: The Abduction from the Seraglio

★★★★

Die Entführung aus dem Serail 

(Glyndebourne, directed by Sir David McVicar, seen at the Proms, 14 August 2015)

This post draws on two encounters with the same production: the live broadcast from Glyndebourne earlier this summer, and the pared down staged version presented at the Proms on 14 August. As has happened so often in recent months, I’d gone to see Seraglio without really knowing very much about it at all. I knew it was by Mozart and I knew it was about someone being rescued from a harem, but that was about it. It turned out to be rather different from what I’d imagined, and I’m delighted to say that I adored the production, largely due to its aesthetic beauty and the sheer verve with which the story was told.

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Giulio Cesare: George Frideric Handel (1724)

Handel: Giulio Cesare

(Glyndebourne, 2005, directed by Sir David McVicar, conducted by William Christie)

One thing’s for sure. Handel certainly didn’t imagine anything quite like this. With zeppelins hovering over the Alexandrian harbour in the final act and Bollywood-style dance routines thrown into the arias, this production is joyously exuberant and thoroughly addictive. It was the first time I’d watched or heard the opera and it was the perfect introduction: indeed, I ended up feeling quite jealous of the people who’d been able to see it in the flesh.

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