Giulio Cesare – Haendel

William Christie, David McVicar – Sarah Connolly (Cesare), Danielle de Niese (Cleopatra)

David McVicar's triumph in Glyndebourne in 2005 is Giulio Cesare with Sarah Connolly and Danielle de Niese in the midst of passions and power struggles.

In 49 B.C, Julius Caesar and Pompey are struggling for power. When Caesar triumphs and conquers Egypt, the defeated seeks help from Ptolemy, the son of his father's ally. Instead of helping Pompey, Ptolemy welcomes Caesar with his rival's head as a present, in order to gain favor with the winner.

Caesar is outraged by Ptolemy's gesture, since he had just planned to make peace with Pompey. Cornelia laments upon her husband's death whereas Sesto swears to take revenge for his father. On her side, Cleopatra plans to seek Caesar's favor as well to overpower her brother Ptolemy, with whom she has to share the throne of Egypt.

Achilla brings the news of Caesar's offence to Ptolemy, who decides not to rely on the Emperor anymore. Achilla even promises to kill Caesar if he receives Cornelia's hand in marriage. Cleopatra goes to see Caesar as Lydia, one of the queen's maid. Caesar immediately falls in love but the couple is interrupted by Cornelia and Sesto who came to get back Pompey's sword. They all go to Ptolemy's palace together. The Egyptian king falls in love with Cornelia as soon as he sees her and imprisons her, betraying the promise he made to Achilla.

This opera was premiered in London in 1724 at the Royal Academy of Music, ruled by Haendel himself. The innovative style of this 2005 performance, with its colonial costumes and settings, transposes the action in late 19th century Egypt, occupied by the British. McVicar's direction is comical while keeping the tragic dimension of the characters. One of the most beautiful score composed by Haendel is magnified by William Christie's baton and by the two soloists Sarah Connolly embodying the powerful but fair Caesar, and Danielle De Niese who expresses the fascinating character of Cleopatra thanks to alternately teasing and profound arias.

In the press:

"Never has a four hour opera seria been so exhilaratingly enjoyable(...). Arguably the British director’s finest work to date (and now, thankfully immortalised on DVD), McVicar takes us on a thrilling rollercoaster of a ride to an Egypt where baroque meets Bollywood and ancient Rome meets British colonialism. “Entertainment is not a dirty word” states McVicar in the documentary which accompanies the DVD - and how right he was, for this was without a doubt the most entertaining operatic performance I have ever experienced. Some Handel purists may object to the jazzed-up dance routines and camp comedy elements, but McVicar’s imaginative production never leaves you bored for a single minute, which is one hell of an achievement."
Faye Courtney, Opera Britannia

Linked event :

David McVicar stage director
Brigitte Reiffenstuel costumes
Paule Constable lighting
Andrew George movement director

Sarah Connolly (Cesare)
Alexander Ashworth (Curio)
Patricia Bardon (Cornelia)
Angelika Kirchschlager (Sesto)
Danielle de Niese (Cleopatra)
Rachid Ben Abdeslam (Nireno)
Christophe Dumaux (Tolomeo)
Christopher Maltman (Achilla)
Nadja Zwiener (On-stage Violin)

Laurence Cummings harpsichord
Benoît Hartoin harpsichord
Jonathan Cohen cello
Richard Tunnicliffe viola di gamba
Elizabeth Kenny theorbo

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
William Christie music director
The Glyndebourne Chorus
Bernard McDonald chorus director

Duration : 03 h 47 min
Location : Glyndebourne (Lewes, Great Britain)
Production date : 2005
Production : © Glyndebourne Productions Ltd / Opus Arte Ltd
Available version(s) : IT ST EN, IT ST FR, IT ST ES

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