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Handel - Giulio Cesare
Handel - Giulio Cesare
Actors: Andreas Scholl, Inger Dam-Jensen, Michael Maniaci, Christopher Robson, Randi Stene
Director: Francisco Negrin
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2007     3hr 36min


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Movie Details

Actors: Andreas Scholl, Inger Dam-Jensen, Michael Maniaci, Christopher Robson, Randi Stene
Director: Francisco Negrin
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: DTS, Classical
Studio: Harmonia Mundi Fr.
Format: DVD - Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 10/09/2007
Original Release Date: 01/01/2007
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2007
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 3hr 36min
Screens: Widescreen
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: German, English, French, Italian

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Movie Reviews

Niel Rishoi | Ann Arbor, MI USA | 01/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This Harmonia Mundi DVD release of GIULIO CESARE from Denmark, recorded in 2005 is, quite simply, magnificent. Everything about this release signifies a major event, starting with the packaging. A beautifully produced gatefold DVD case, attractively and conveniently laid out. The booklet gives all the relevant information, with the synopsis synchronized with the tracks (the only drawback is that there are only 9 tracks for the first DVD, 15 for the second; given that Universal Classics painstakingly separates the recits from the arias {the Ponnelle film of COSI for example has over 35 tracks per DVD}, this is inconvenient, because you have to do more searching if you want to). Best of all, though, the booklet has a concise, scholarly, passionate essay written by Winton Dean; I find it amazing that he can convey the virtues and cover the relevant issues in so economical a fashion.

The production is typical contemporary, with several token ancient Egypt symbols and props. There are some concepts that escape me, and I may summon up the means to assimilate it...then again, I might not. There are some very intriguing ideas, even of wonderful elegance, mixed up with some confusing ones, but mercifully, the gimmicks are kept at a minimum. There are even some terrific moments of sly humor, and the ideas work surprisingly well. The most important thing is, the artists interact with involvement, always at the service of the drama, and imparting it with "fanatical consecration (Lilli Lehmann's term)" This is a thoroughly worked-out, supremely dedicated production, of a type you rarely see.

What matters here is the performance, and it is just splendid. I think this is as near to a "correct" Handelian performance of an opera as we're going to get. Lars Ulrik Mortensen (again magnificently) leads the orchestra; original instruments of course, and they sound wonderful. The score seems complete, but I learned that there are a few small cuts.

But what a magnificent score this is, sinuous, intensely expressive, and often haunting. And these singers are incomparable. All the voice parts are distributed correctly. I'm at a loss to describe Andreas Scholl's performance in the title role. His singing transcends simple musical values. All the purity and fluency (mind-blowing, actually) required is fulfilled, and then some. Best of all, despite his voice's type, he is unerringly, deeply masculine. Tall, and solidly built, he commands the stage, physically at ease, and charismatic. Scholl is, undoubtedly, a truly great artist. It is really something. Everything about him bespeaks flawless musicianship and the highest artistic integrity.

Equally great is Inger Dam-Jensen's mercurial, sensual Cleopatra, perhaps the best I've ever heard in the role. Her voice is shining, clear, and she uses it to great effect. Her soft singing is stunning, and her bell-like tone gives constant pleasure. She is also a sight to behold, truly the alluring Vixen of the Nile. Dam-Jensen even strips to take a bath in act 3; her physical performance is a constant joy to watch. The "Se pieta" shimmers like moonlight on a rippling lake (a groaner of a metaphor I know).

There is one unusual singer here, by the name of Michael Maniaci, who sings Nireno. As I understand it, Maniaci is a true male soprano: he was born with some kind of palsy that impeded puberty from setting in (his slightly distorted face shows the palsy's effect), and therefore never developed. As a result, he has the same circumstance as if he were a castrato. His singing is amazing: he can sing up quite high, his coloratura is fluent, with an astonishing trill.

Randi Stene as Cornelia, and Tuva Semmingsen as Sesto are two more winners: Stene has a gorgeous tone quality, and her singing/acting is captivating. Semmingsen has a crystal-clear shine to her voice, agile, and is very believable in her pants-role persona. A particular pleasure are these two in the duet, "Son nata a lagrimar."

Christopher Robson's Tolomeo is sweet-voiced, but terrifying in appearance, and it works. He's imparts a real joy in his bulldog-faced villainy. Achilla is portrayed by bass-baritone Palle Knudsen, and he too is a strong presence, and sings his muscular aria with remarkable fleetness.

As a matter of fact, the most wonderful part of this performance, is, indeed, how sweet of tone all the treble voices are. They are, thankfully, not made to sing in that 1980s mode of straight-toned vocalism, and they sound as naturally vibrant as need be. But there is not a single squally tone here, or any blots in any of the casting to compromise the performance.

We may be left wanting for Verdi in these times, but as evidenced by this performance, Handel is truly undergoing a rennaissance. It may be said this performance reaches for and meets the goals with the highest honors.

Handelians, rejoice greatly - I think you will enjoy this. For those with aversions to Handel or Baroque opera, this performance may transform you.
Kill the Tolomeo
figaro | Eugene, OR United States | 01/17/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This video is a bit maddening as there is some of the best Handelian singing I have ever heard and also some of the worst. Scholl, as Cesare, and the ladies singing Cornelia and Sesto are absolutely divine. Scholl's coloratura technique is nothing short of miraculous. The Cleopatra is also very good, but not quite as astounding as the other three. The Achilla was also quite enjoyable with a smooth voice and good fioratura. The Tolomeo, however, is truly one of the worst singers I have ever heard - the voice is tiny, unfocused, and terribly broken in the registers. It was not always so, for this same singer, Christopher Robson, can be heard on the much earlier videos of both Xerxes and Ariodante from the ENO, and his singing is quite decent in those videos, but his voice has deteriorated greatly between those earlier productions and this Cesare, and I was not able to sit through all of his arias but had to eventually fastforward through most of them. It was always an ugly voice, but he was able to control it and lead it in a very interesting way previously - here in this video, the voice is a ragged leftover. The slowest aria, which he sings to his harem was bordering on acceptable and I listened to that in it's entirety, but the others were putrid. The Nireno was not on the same par with the other professional singers, however was much better than the Tolomeo, and why on earth he didn't get the bigger role is beyond me.

I liked the modern setting. One other serious negative is the sound quality - the placement of the recording in the house seems not to be ideal. The orchestra sounded good but the singers sounded like they were in an echo chamber - it wasn't terrible, but could certainly be better.

If you are a Cesare-lover, get this one to add to your collection of other Cesare's, because there is some singing here not to be missed, however, if you are looking for just one, or a first Cesare, get the Glyndebourne one with Sarah Connolly in the title role."
Scholl RULES!
Prince_Dark | Oslo, Europe Norway | 10/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is absolutly the best performance of Giulio Cesare that`s available on DVD. The singers are all superb, esp. Andreas Scholl who not only sings awesome, but also is a great actor, and this all just adds to the pleasure of viewing and hearing it.
The scenography is also very good and adds greatly to the story. This is a modern version, but not just to be modern, it actually fits very well.
GET IT!!!!"
Scholl the best... it's worth it for him alone.
Wellington Pavior | Australia | 03/17/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I have seen several Cesare's on DVD and live... and this production is one of my favourites. For me it comes the closest to the Australian Opera DVD with Graham Pushee and Yvonne Kenny which is my favourite for many reasons that I won't go into here.

The cast for this DVD is excellent (with one exception). Andreas Scholl is fantastic, his acting good and his voice clear and strong, it is just a little hard to watch him sometimes... he distorts his face every now and again (as 90% of counter-tenors do)but this does not diminish from the out standing performance he puts in. His Cleopatra, Inger Dam-Jensen is excellent... a beautiful woman with an incredible voice and technique. The rest of the cast is good with the exception of Tolomeo played by Christopher Robson, who when lacking the range or power required for this role uses his 'chest voice' a little to often and also resorts to vocal hysterics... in saying this he acts very well and good on his for being brave enough to everything the director asks of him in this production. The other interesting casting is Michael Maniaci as Nireno... a true male soprano; his voice suits this repertoire very well and it will be interesting to hear him as the voice matures and he comes into his own as an artist. Nireno is a small role (he actually turned down a larger role in the USA to work on this project) but the inclusion of the normally cut aria really shows what Michael can do.

The Orchestra are excellent and the direction (both musical and dramatic) is fine. This is a 'modern' production, but one that works and doesn't try to be too modern or abstract.

Giulio Cesare is a wonderful opera and you will not find a better Cesare than Scholl... this is one of the best DVDs of this opera on the market and worth every penny of the Harmonia Mundi price tag."