Recording Date: 1984
Place of recording: From the English National Opera
Running Time: 180 min
Picture Format: 4:3
Sound Format: PCM Stereo
Menu Languages PAL: D, F, GB, SP
Subtitle Languages PAL: D, F, GB, SP
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“This is a 1984 studio re-creation, with the original cast, of John Copley's ENO production. Mackerras's performing edition is by no means literally 'authentic'; arias are removed, including much of Sextus's role, recitatives are trimmed, and much of Caesar's role is transposed – inevitably, since it was written for the exceptionally low contralto castrato Senesino. The result is no travesty, however: it's fast-moving and dramatically satisfying, and conducted by Mackerras in the same spirit. Copley also strives to avoid tedium, for instance backing da capo passages with stage activity – sometimes rather obviously. However, his staging, combining John Pascoe's warm-hued, vaguely 18th-century designs with more naturalistic acting, translates quite well to the screen – not least because the singers are so committed. Janet Baker displays great Handelian affinity. She not only delivers these difficult, florid arias with fiery élan and appropriate ornament, but infuses them with a real emotional intensity that sweeps one over the credibility gap. Sarah Walker makes the lachrymose Cornelia almost as intense, and Valerie Masterson carries off Cleopatra's gorgeous music with admirable if slightly self-conscious virtuosity and a kittenish seductiveness reminiscent of Vivien Leigh. Della Jones is a splendid Sextus, and John Tomlinson a thunderously melodramatic Achilles. Though James Bowman's hooting tone is rather obtrusive, he plays Ptolemy as a petulantly Farouk-ish villain to fine comic effect.”
“Janet Baker sings and acts commandingly in the title-role...[Jones, Bowman and Tomlinson] are all ideal in their roles, with Michael Stennett's sumptuous cotumes adding to the success of the production. Sir Charles Mackerras paces the music masterfully...The full, vivid studio sound makes this one of the very finest of the invaluable series of ENO opera recordings in English”
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