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George Frideric Handel - Giulio Cesare (Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2005) [Blu-ray]
George Frideric Handel - Giulio Cesare
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2005
Actors: William Christie, Sarah Connolly, Angelika Kirchschlager, Danielle de Niese, Patricia Bardon
Directors: David McVicar, Robin Lough
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2009     3hr 26min

There's a chance that purists will be very unhappy with director David McVicar's production of this Baroque masterpiece; there's also an equal chance that they'll be so vastly entertained that all criticisms will be beside...  more »

     
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Movie Details

Actors: William Christie, Sarah Connolly, Angelika Kirchschlager, Danielle de Niese, Patricia Bardon
Directors: David McVicar, Robin Lough
Creators: Giacomo Francesco Bussani, Nicola Francesco Haym
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Classical
Studio: Opus Arte
Format: Blu-ray - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 04/28/2009
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2005
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 3hr 26min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 4
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: Italian
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian
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Movie Reviews

That's Entertainment! Glyndebourne style
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 05/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"First performed 20 February 1724 and frequently revived thereafter during Handel's lifetime, Giulio Cesare, like all of his operas, fell into obscurity for 2 centuries. Supposedly, they were uninteresting to a modern audience and unperformable by modern performers. Recent scholarship proved the absurdity of this mistaken viewpoint. Handel's operas are joining his oratorios in the repertory with Cesare probably most performed along with Serse.

Cleopatra made a star of Beverly Sills. I think it may do the same for the uncommonly beautiful Danielle de Niese whose stunning appearance and rich soprano fill the Glyndebourne stage with that ineffable quality called 'starpower'. Glyndebourne and Opus Arte must agree because they showcase Ms. de Niece in a 30 minute documentary on disc 1 called 'Danielle de Niece and the Glyndebourne experience'! In it, appealing to the under 30 audience is explicitly discussed. Every aspect of this staging of Cesare is created with that mission in mind. Another documentary film included in the set is 'Entertainment is not a dirty word'. If you can deal with all this, you will enjoy this 3 disc DVD immensely. I found this performance funny, entertaining, inventive, a little glitzy (in a good way) and well sung. On the negative side, I found it slightly weaker dramatically but with some absorbing tragic singing from Angelika Kirschlager as Sesto and Patricia Bardon as Sesto's mother Cornelia. Sarah Connolly makes a fine Cesare. Christopher Maltman is a standout Achilla. The cast is quite good and they appear to be enjoying themselves. In a 4 hour opera that is probably helpful.

William Christie is a superb conductor of Baroque opera. He has been joining his talents to productions that emphasize a more modern sensibilty. Some purists wonder where the real heart of Baroque opera is when singers cavort onstage in slinky Flapper dresses and designer sunglasses. I can live with it if the music is well performed: as it is here by the superb Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. But even open-minded laissez-faire opera fans (like me) would like to see a real Baroque opera performed as written one day. This is a vastly entertaining production. The costumes are beautiful. The stagecraft and sets are brilliantly conceived. There is a wonderful wave machine with 19th Century ships-of-war at the rear of a Baroque-style stage. A harvest moon with stars glimmers in the sky. It is quite lovely. And the music by Handel is pretty good, too.

This 3 DVD set is NTSC all regions shot in 16/9 true anamorphic widescreen in high definition. It looks beautiful. Sound is recorded in LPCM stereo and 5.1 DTS Digital Surround Sound. Both are crystal clear with DTS providing terrific immediacy and presence to the sound. You feel like you're there. Subtitles are in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. Menus are in English. There are numerous extras: including the films mentioned, an illustrated plot synopsis, a cast gallery, production and rehearsal photos. The 48 page enclosed booklet is glossy, beautiful and informative. Total running time of the DVDs is 305 minutes. Another superb Opus Arte release.

This is a wonderfully entertaining modern production with a great Baroque opera at its heart. If you can deal with the anachronisms and glitz, you will love it. If you're a purist, be forewarned. Strongly recommended.

Mike Birman"
A wonderful entertainment, and more!
Merksamer Israel | 05/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is the fourth "Cesare" I watched. It is the most complete of all performances on DVD - the music lasts nearly 4 hours, an hour more than the Baker recording. Sound and picture are excellent, sounds like a good cd.
William Christie conducts the wonderful score with expertise and flexibility. No need to praise the orchestra - they are among the best.
We are in an age of countertenors, but the role of Cesare is given to an alt - Sarah Conolly. Her very good singing does not erase memories of Janet Baker, but her acting is more persuasive. All the singers are experts, and Cleopatra (Danielle de Niese) outshines them all. She leads a production of not only high artistic value, but also a great entertainment.
For this the credit must also go to he stage director McVicar and the choreographer.All in all, a first rate evening at the opera.

"
This "Caesar" Rules
Paul Van de Water | Virginia, USA | 05/28/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Musically, this recording of "Giulio Cesare" is surely the best on either CD or DVD. Until now, my two favorites have been the New York City Opera-Beverly Sills-Norman Treigle production from 1966-67 (which I saw in person) and Rene Jacobs' 1992 recording on Harmonia Mundi. No longer, however, does one have to sacrifice drama for completeness and original pitch. Conductor William Christie, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and a superb Glyndebourne cast prove that historically informed performance can be even more exciting and absorbing than the shortened, transposed versions from the early days of the Baroque revival. Sarah Connolly (as Caesar), Danielle de Niese (as Cleopatra), and the other singers and instrumentalists equal or exceed their predecessors in all respects. (The horns in the opening and closing choruses will just blow you away--pun intended.)

The production portrays Caesar as a 19th century British imperialist, but the conceit is worn lightly and is generally successful. (I can't explain the anachronistic dirigibles, destroyers, and ocean liner that appear in the harbor of Alexandria at various points.) In the documentary that accompanies the performance, director David McVicar acknowledges that some of Cleopatra's stage action is inspired by Bollywood films, but even these scenes do not seem inappropriate. Remember that other serious Baroque and classical operas, such as Serse and Don Giovanni, contain humorous elements.

The two protagonists could not be bettered, either vocally or dramatically. Sarah Connolly dominates the stage, moves with a masculine swagger, and makes a most effective Caesar. And it's no wonder that the older man falls for the beautiful, funny, flirtatious, and phenomenally talented 26-year old Danielle de Niese. Patricia Bardon (as Cornelia, widow of Pompey) and Angelika Kirschlager (as Sesto, Pompey's son) carry the tragic element as they work to avenge the murdered king.

This DVD of "Giulio Cesare" joins the Handel honor roll, which includes Christie's "Hercules," Christophe Rousset's "Serse," and Trevor Pinnock's "Tamerlano.""
Handel's Wondrous Music Beautifully Served by a Stellar Cast
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 12/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"David McVicar's spirited, audacious 2005 Glyndebourne staging of Handel's preeminent opera seria comes to life in a surprisingly robust 2006 DVD package that spreads the marathon, four-hour work over three discs. Not nearly as outrageous as David Alden or Peter Sellars, McVicar exhibits a more manageable theatrical flair with an idiosyncratic blend of historical periods and dramatic styles from slapstick to melodrama. Bolstered by Robert Jones' impressive sets, it's a lavish production that places the classic story of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra within the context of the 18th century British imperialism encroaching upon Egypt. Above all else is G.F. Handel's wondrous music, including some of his best arias, impeccably played by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment led by estimable Baroque specialist William Christie.

A splendid cast has been assembled starting with British mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly who transforms herself most convincingly into a stalwart male for the title role. Performing in an especially low Baroque pitch, Connolly sings superbly while perfectly evoking the swagger of a warrior. With her stunning coloratura, she hits the expected high points without disappointment - Act I's "Va tacito e nascosto"; Act II's casually lyrical "Se in fiorito ameno prato" competing with a virtuoso violin solo by Nadja Zwiener; and Act III's "Aure, deh, per pieta" when Caesar returns to Egypt after his escape from Tolomeo. As Cleopatra, 25-year old Australian-American soprano Danielle de Niese is a ravishing presence along the lines of Angelina Jolie. Physically ideal in a variety of eye-catching costumes, she handles the character's diverse sequence of arias with aplomb - Act II's "V'adoro, pupille" in the guise of a goddess prepared to entertain Caesar; the moving "Se pietà di me non senti" later in Act II; and of course, Act III's "Piangerò la sorte mia" as she laments her defeat by Tolomeo.

In another cross-dressing turn, German mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager makes Sesto's desires for revenge of his father's death most palpable, especially on the aria "Svegliatevi nel core"; and Irish mezzo-soprano Patricia Bardon is moving as Sesto's grief-stricken mother Cornelia, Pompey's widow. Their characters' much-anticipated duet, "Madre!...son nata a lagrimar", closes Act I in beautifully rendered style. Though clearly overshadowed, the men perform exceptionally - Moroccan countertenor Rachid Ben Abdeslam as Cleopatra's servant Nireno (especially on his comic song-and-dance, "Chi perde un momento", complete with a Supremes-like back-up group); French countertenor Christophe Dumaux as Cleopatra's treacherous brother Tolomeo; and British baritone Christopher Maltman as Tolomeo's general, Achilla, who bravely switches sides only to meet a ghastly fate. Helping considerably in defining the various characters are Brigitte Reiffenstuel's often clever costumes, as well as the animated choreography, partially inspired by Bollywood musicals, by "movement director" Andrew George.

Commensurate with the stellar production, Opus Arte has provided a strong set of extras in the DVD package. On the first disc, there is a helpful synopsis that uses snapshots of the performance to explain the complex storyline. Of more interest is a half-hour featurette called "Danielle de Niese and the Glyndebourne Experience", which spotlights the gorgeous soprano in an informal portrait similar to MTV's "Cribs" series. A naturally telegenic personality, she gives a tour of her rented cottage, drives to the venue, strolls with Glyndebourne executive chairman Gus Christie and shows how she prepares for the role. On the third disc is the more substantive, one-hour documentary, "Entertainment Is Not a Dirty Word", directed by Ferenc van Damme, in which McVicar, Christie, Connolly, de Niese, Kirchschlager and George lend behind-the-scenes insight on the production and discuss at length the freedom allowed by this newest interpretation. There are also slideshows of the rehearsals and the final production on the third disc."