Tag: Giulio Cesare

For once, YouTube gets the ads sort of right . . .

I was listening to Sandrine Piau sing “se pietà” rather than thinking about either the book project or the three syllabi I am supposed to be working on this summer, and I noticed two things.

1. Whoever input the album info that I received with the download of my copy of the album rendered the title of the aria as “se pita.” HANDEL THEMED SANDWICH SHOP, PEOPLE. THIS IS MARKETING GOLD.

2. The YouTube ad that I got preceding this video of the same track is for the Kia Cadenza. The tagline is “hard to ignore” or “difficult to forget” or something along those lines. (I mean, it’s not the Sesto but at least it’s vaguely musical. Then again, would you really buy a car that is named after something that is often improvised?)

Handel – Giulio Cesare / Lemieux, Gauvin, Basso et al. / Il Complesso Barocco / Curtis (2)

(Previous section here.)

A point of gratuitous textual background. Handel’s librettist, Nicola Francesco Haym* based his text on an earlier version of the drama by Giacomo Francesco Bussani; Haym cut several roles and removed some sequences that were (I quote the booklet) “in doubtful taste.” Apparently in the original Sesto disguised himself as his own mother in order to sneak up on Tolomeo and catch him unawares; Cornelia also had – the booklet doesn’t explain why, but I suppose we can all come up with something – to dress up as a eunuch for a while. On balance, I think Haym’s judgment was probably sound.

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Handel – Giulio Cesare / Lemieux, Gauvin, Basso et al. / Il Complesso Barocco / Curtis (1)

71NcjICBU-L._SL1429_Giulio Cesare can turn out quite the taco party by operatic standards, especially if you cast an alto as Nireno, as this recording does. I wonder if anyone has ever gone the whole way and had a female Tolomeo too? Might be interesting. Out of eight vocal roles, only two, Achilla and Curio, pretty much have to be sung by men. Though the convention of the countertenor Tolomeo really is fine by me – nothing wrong with a little variety in timbre, and there are certainly plenty of good countertenors out there in the world.

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Roberta Invernizzi, “Da tempeste”

You know how sometimes there’s been a really awesome party going on for like, years, and you don’t find out about it because you’re a doofus? And then you find out about it and it’s ok and you’re allowed to join and all is well?

Well, I felt a bit like that recently. I stumbled on soprano Roberta Invernizzi completely by accident while looking for — of all things! – Gluck’s version of La Clemenza di Tito. I am quickly becoming a fan. Here she is singing “da tempeste” from Giulio Cesare:

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Handel – Giulio Cesare / Gall, Larson, Hunt et al. 1990 (4)

What I said about Giulio Cesare earlier this week has been bothering me because I am not sure that I said it quite right. Also, I was thinking about the differences between the Sellars version of that opera that I recently watched and this one from Glyndebourne in 2005, which is musically excellent and immensely entertaining. These are two quite different productions. The Glyndebourne one is campy and funny and takes the story at its face value. The Sellars one — well, it’s not that it doesn’t take the story at face value, but the goal of the production seems to be to force the story to show itself in the worst possible light. There’s nothing wrong with such an approach in the abstract, of course, but it’s a lot less fun to watch.

So, very different goals with the opera. But there are aspects of these two productions which are strikingly similar.

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Handel – Giulio Cesare / Gall, Larson, Hunt et al. 1990 (3)

(Previous section here.)

The most moving performance in this opera comes from Lorraine Hunt as Sesto. While Cleopatra is having terrific fun with pool toys, bags of money and the President, and Cesare is spending much of his time either gladhanding or scampering about and looking like kind of a doofus (those blue track pants he’s got on during ‘v’adoro, pupille’ are — well, let us just say that he is not doing his country proud, sartorially), while all this is going on Sesto is having a bit of a personal crisis. Which is perfectly understandable given that he has just seen his father’s head brought in in a box.

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Handel – Giulio Cesare / Gall, Larson, Hunt et al. 1990 (2)

(part one here.)

So, Cleopatra is performing. This is romance ‘staged’ in a very obvious way. It’s hard to miss in ‘v’adoro, pupille.’ It’s rubbed in our faces again in the final scene, where Cesare and Cleopatra emerge in matching red and blue striped bathrobes and a blinding amount of gold jewelry. (I particularly enjoyed Cesar’s line here about the beauty of Cleopatra’s hair while he fingers her very late-80s rat-tail.) But rat-tails and glitter aside, why tell the story in this way?

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Handel – Giulio Cesare / Gall, Larson, Hunt et al. 1990 (1)

This is not DVD of a production of Giulio Cesare. This is a DVD that is a production of Giulio Cesare. There is a difference.

But I should begin at the beginning. The action of the opera takes place not in the Egypt of the first century BC, but rather in the slightly tacky courtyard of a slightly tacky hotel in the Egypt of the twentieth century. The DVD case claims that it is some unspecified time in the future, but it looks like the 1980s to me. Later, we move to the beach, complete with oil drums. There is a great deal of lawn furniture lying about, as well as numerous garden implements, at least one rubber snake and some pool toys. Cesare (Jeffrey Gall) is the president of the United States and he arrives with the secret service (led by Curio) and accompanied by Sesto (Lorraine Hunt) and Cornelia (Mary Westbrook-Geha).

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