Sunday, 28 May 2006

Baroque Bollywood

A Catholic blog isn't just about theology. It's also about culture. Forgive me for turning my attention towards a superb DVD that came through the post today - Handel's opera masterpiece: Giulio Cesare in Egitto (1724). This is a live recording of David McVicar's acclaimed production performed at Glyndebourne last year and currently being revived.

Opera frequently has a bad press. OK, this set consists of three disks, and anyone would admit that a baroque opera lasting over 3 hours could be very tedious indeed. But not this one. Thanks to the superb cast, the energetic musical direction of William Christie and McVicar's enlightened idea that opera should be entertaining and accessible, this production is packed with action, humour and subtle nuances. There is hardly a dull moment - several arias are even accompanied by Bollywood dance routines (which actually works) and it has all the drama and emotion of a West End show. Special mention must go to Cleopatra, played by Danielle de Niese. One reviewer, Edward Seckerson, said that 'for her sheer relish of performing, her movie-star looks and her winning personality, she was a complete knock-out. Indeed, she was so on top of her jubilant pay-off aria Da tempeste il legno infranto that the vocal and physical virtuosity were virtually inseparable.'

If you love baroque music or want to have a taste of just how exciting opera can be, buy it. And even if you don't, buy it anyway!


Anonymous Michael Rosen said...

You're absolutely right - that's a wonderful DVD and perfect introduction to how engrossing and beautiful Handel opera can be. Only sadness is that they didn't record the production a year later, when the cast included David Daniels as Caesar.

However for the all-round best Handel singing on DVD, IMHO, the Glyndebourne "Theodora" DVD is transcendantly wonderful, with a cast including David Daniels at his best, Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson, Dawn Upshaw and more in a truly electric production by Peter Sellars. Apologies if you've already covered this elsewhere in your blog.

6:39 pm  

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