Yvonne Kenny (Cleopatra), Graham Pushee (Giulio Cesare), Andrew Dalton (Tolomeo), Elizabeth Campbell (Sesto), Rosemary Gunn (Cornelia), Stephen Bennett (Achilla), Richard Alexander (Curio), Rodney Gilchrist (Nireno)
Subtitles: English, German, French, Italian. Recorded live at the Sydney Opera House, June 1994.
DVD Video - 2 discs
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“This lavish production by Mexican director Francisco Negrin blends imagery from the Classical world with some modern touches. The use of choreography enhances a staging in which every character has a clear idea of who they are and how they need to react to the swiftly shifting fortunes allotted them by the plot. It's handsome, dramatic and chic. Yvonne Kenny as Cleopatra in particular has fun singing an aria while naked in her bath of asses' milk. She also has, by some distance, the finest voice on show, though most of her fellow principals know exactly what to do with less glamorous instruments. Richard Hickox draws credible period style from the non-specialist orchestra, selects consistently effective tempos and maintains musical flow.”
“Francisco Negrin's production of Giulio Cesare is remarkably satisfying. Richard Hickox's musical direction is exemplary, with timing, tempi and phrasing that never go awry. The moderninstrument orchestra plays without a trace of soggy over-indulgence. The singing is less uniformly ideal: Yvonne Kenny's gutsy coloratura is undone by wobbly intonation, and Elizabeth Campbell's Sesto inclines towards shrillness. Rosemary Gunn's Cornelia isn't a convincing drop-dead gorgeous icon who could initiate the doom of lusting Egyptians, and her heavy vibrato obscures the melodic beauty of 'Priva son d'ogni conforto'. Stephen Bennett delivers a wonderful 'Tu sei il cor' which suggests that Achillas is capable of greater eloquence and sincerity than we'd suspected. Graham Pushee's lyrical Cesare is consistently marvellous: his superbly acted role as an enlightened ruler perfectly fits Negrin's concept of him as representing ideal kingship, which is how such figures were supposed to be interpreted by Handel's Haymarket audience. This is by no means a historical Baroque staging, but Negrin ensures that each strand of the plot is faithful to both libretto and Handel's music. He takes some daring risks with staging while doing nothing to subvert the musical rhetoric or the purity of the narrative. He intelligently allows the soliloquy convention to be respected. Unlike so many directors who do not understand Handel's dramatic power, he ensures that Cleopatra sings 'Piangerò' alone; the lack of distractions magnifies an intensely emotional moment. The production nevertheless features plenty of clever stagecraft. The most significant liberty reaps handsome dividends: the role of Nireno is incidental in the score, yet the director imagines that he pulls all the strings behind the scenes to ensure that all the plot-strands resolve happily. It's common to admire a Handel opera performance for its singing while deploring the staging; here, though, is a precious rare example of a production that's a joy.”
“Graham Pushee sings powerfully in the title-role with his cleanly-focused voice, offering immaculate articulation and phenomenal agility in the many formidable divisions. Opposite him is the superb Cleopatra of Yvonne Kenny, glamorous of person and voice. Happily, Hickox allows her big arias full expansiveness, bringing out their beauty.”
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