George Frideric Handel - Giulio Cesare (2005) [1DVD9 1DVD5 PAL]
Number discs 2
Lenght 208 min.
Video: PAL 4:3
Audio: PCM Stereo, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1
Audio language: DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM
Subtitles: Gb, D , F , IT
Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Julius Caesar in Egypt, HWV 17), commonly known simply as Giulio Cesare, is an Italian opera in three acts written for the Royal Academy of Music by George Frideric Handel in 1724. The libretto was written by Nicola Francesco Haym.
It was first performed in London on 20 February 1724. The opera was an immediate success. Handel revived it (with changes) in 1725, 1730, and 1732; it was also performed in Paris, Hamburg, and Brunswick. Like Handel's other works in the opera seria genre, Giulio Cesare fell into obscurity in the 19th century.
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 piet‡ di me non senti (II, and PiangerÚ 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 surrounded 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.
In the 20th century, it was revived (in heavily altered form - reorchestrated and revamped with the male castrato roles transposed down for a baritone, tenor or bass) in Gˆttingen in 1922 by the Handel enthusiast Oskar Hagen. Hans Knappertsbusch and Karl Bˆhm both conducted it in Munich in 1923 and its first American performance took place at the Smith College of Music in Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1927. The first British revival of a Handel opera was the staging of Giulio Cesare at the Scala Theatre in London in 1930, by the London Festival Opera Company, singing in English. The young Herbert von Karajan conducted a production in Ulm in 1933. In modern times, it has proven to be by far the most popular of Handel's operas, with more than two hundred productions in many countries. The title role and the roles Ptolemy and Nirenus were written for castrati, and in modern productions, Giulio is either transposed for baritone or sung by a contralto, mezzo-soprano, or, more frequently in recent years, a countertenor. The characters of both Nirenus and Ptolemy are sung by countertenors.
The work is considered by many to be Handel's finest Italian opera, possibly even the best in the history of opera seria. It is admired for its superb vocal writing, its dramatic impact, and its deft orchestral arrangements.
Giulio Cesare is now regularly performed.
HANDEL Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Richard Hickox, cond; Graham Pushee (Giulio Cesare); Richard Alexander (Curio); Rosemary Gunn (Cornelia); Elizabeth Campbell (Sesto); Stephen Bennett (Achilla); Yvonne Kenny (Cleopatra); Rodney Gilchrist (Nireno); Andrew Dalton (Tolomeo); Op Australia Dancers; Australian Op & Ballet O; Francisco Negrin, stage dir; Peter Butler, video dir KULTUR (DVD: 206:52) Live: Sydney 1994
There is much good singing to be heard in this production of what may be Handelís greatest opera, and some that is truly spectacular. Most of the latter comes, fittingly, from the two principals. As Cleopatra, Yvonne Kenny, the admirable Ilia in the 1983 DVD of Mozartís Idomeneo, gives perhaps the finest performance of her distinguished career, encompassing every aspect of her music from seduction to despair by way of satirical wit without ever (and I mean this literally) losing countenance. The Giulio is Graham Pushee... I was unprepared for the sheer splendor of his singing here... Excellent too is the Sesto of Elizabeth Campbell...Stephen Bennett is a strong Achilla, and Curio and Nireno are in capable hands with Richard Alexander and Rodney Gilchrist...Well informed in style and complete except for a few cutsómostly of middle sections and da caposóit is splendidly enough sung to compete on that level with the finest audio versions of the opera...and for once the visual element adds to the impact of the work rather than compromising it.
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