Overview of Opera North’s Giulio Cesare


Again after seven years, one in all Opera North’s finest productions of baroque opera returns, and with a solid that’s virtually as universally sturdy because it was in 2012.

Considered one of them – counter-tenor James Laing, as Tolomeo, the narcissistic, psychopathic, moody and lecherous baddie of the story (aka Ptolomy, to historical historians) – certainly returns to his position, simply as horrifyingly antipathetic as earlier than.

The story is of Julius Caesar in Egypt. It opens when his erstwhile Roman rival, Pompey, has already been murdered by Ptolomy – the overture is accompanied by a useful dumb-show through which we see him knifed by Tolomeo and his normal, Achilla.

Ptolomy’s sister and incestuous queen, Cleopatra, nonetheless, not solely is competing along with her brother/husband for supreme rule in Egypt but additionally units out to seduce Caesar. Pompey’s widow, Cornelia, and son, Sesto, are out for revenge, although Cornelia is desperately susceptible to advances from each Achilla and Ptolomy.

It’s a protracted piece: Handel’s operas normally are. A lot of the scenes are confrontations, and the feelings are sturdy however unvaried and strictly sequenced (that’s the idea of Affekt).

Given these constraints, any director has to make use of assets skilfully, and the manufacturing by Tim Albery does that. The set is a movable one in two items, however they arrive collectively and aside and work from totally different angles, so it may well evoke inside and out of doors, battles and bedrooms (together with Cleopatra’s well-known tub, in an inside that, if not a burnished throne, appears to be like like a extremely burnished boudoir).

And the design idea provides the warring nations (Romans and Egyptians) colour-coding and vivid symbolic equipment, such because the Scissorhands-style nail extensions worn by Tolomeo. Credit score Leslie Travers for these results.

The singing, which is for virtuosic performers on all sides, is what counts. Maria Sanner as Cesare (one in all two trouser roles for feminine singers right here) is at her finest within the extra mellow numbers, and although she will maintain her personal for energy when positioned front-of-stage, isn’t all the time provided that benefit. James Laing is icily nasty and sustains his power even when his voice sometimes tires.

However the star of the present in some ways is Lucie Chartin, as Cleopatra. She activates the intercourse enchantment a lot within the first a part of the story that she’s in peril of creating the character a saucy little tart, however she finds actual dignity and pathos afterward, turning Piangeró la sorte mia, sung from ground stage, right into a baroque equal of Tosca’s Vissi d’arte, and displaying technical brilliance in her trills and leaps in Da tempeste il legno infranto, in addition to a heat mezza voce elsewhere.

And matching her for subtlety is Heather Lowe, one of many Royal Northern School of Music’s finest merchandise of latest years, as Sesto. She makes as exceptional a hit of it as did Kathryn Rudge, one other beautiful RNCM excessive mezzo, within the unique manufacturing.

And Amy J Payne, who took the position of Cornelia on Wednesday, gave an outstanding efficiency as Cornelia, stuffed with emotion and vivid performing capability, and with sustained high quality from starting to finish. Handel’s gradual, lamenting arias, with the guiding hand of conductor Christian Curnyn, have by no means sounded higher than this.

Lucie
Chartin as Cleopatra and Maria Sanner as Giulio Cesare in 

Opera North’s manufacturing of Handel’s opera. c Alastair Muir

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