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.

Continue reading

L’Incoronazione di Poppea: Claudio Monteverdi (1643)

Poppea Norway (7)

★★

(Norwegian National Opera 2010, conducted by Alessandro De Marchi)

I’d been itching to see this production of Poppea for some time, ever since stumbling across some clips of Tim Mead’s E pur io torno on YouTube. The clips showed a bare, stripped-back set and a very striking use of colour, and the cast list looked promising. So on Saturday night, after a rather draining couple of days, I settled down to lose myself in one of my favourite operas. As you’ll be able to deduce from the rating, it wasn’t quite the treat it was meant to be.

Continue reading

Xerxes: George Frideric Handel (1738)

Xerxes: Handel

★★★★

(Les Talens Lyriques, with Christophe Rousset, Dresden, 2000)

You might remember that Xerxes at the ENO was the first opera I saw after the Baroque revelations of the summer and, although there was much to enjoy in that production, I itched to hear it performed in the original Italian. There isn’t a huge amount of choice on DVD at the moment so I ended up with this 2000 performance from Dresden. I held off watching it for a while, as it had an entirely female cast of principals and a visual aesthetic which looked bleak, to say the least. Then, one day I happened to see a clip of the opening scene on YouTube. Paula Rasmussen’s Ombra mai fù stopped me in my tracks.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading