Peter Sellars's daring and novel adaptation of Handel's opera Giulio Cesare previously released on Laser Disc and VHS is now available on DVD! Though sung in the original Italian, Giulio Cesare is relocated in the unsp... more »ecified future in the Middle East. Cesare is the unquestioned leader of a major world power who visits the Empire's number one global trouble spot. Ptolemy is a 14-year-old "self styled local potentate" and Cleopatra his beautiful and spoiled elder sister. Included in this DVD are the English subtitles supplied by director Peter Sellars himself, specifically created to match and enhance his personal vision of this opera. CAST LIST JEFFREY GALL Giulio Cesare SUSAN LARSON Cleopatra MARY WESTBROOK-GEHA Cornelia LORRAINE HUNT Sesto JAMES MADDALENA Achilla DREW MINTER Tolomeo CHERYL COBB Nirena HERMAN HILDEBRAND Curio SÃ¤chsische Staatskapelle Dresden Craig Smith, conductor Directed by Peter Sellars« less
"I do not know what all you other reviewers find wrong with this production. I find that it is the best Giulio Cesare I have heard to date. I know that most of the problems with this production stem from Peter Sellers Controversial directing of the stage and modernization. I find it actually charming.
And now for the singers! Jeffery Gall (I'll admit) is not the world's most ideal Countertenor, but he pulls the role of Julius Caesar very well. His chemistry with Cleopatra is amazing. His best aria vocally is "al'lampo dell'armi". Susan Larson (Sellar's Fiordiligi in Cosi and Cherubino in Figaro) as Cleopatra left me absolutely speechless. There is absolutely no glitches in her performance. It would be hard to find just one aria that she excels in. She witty banter with Nirena is very funny and well-acted. Mary Westbrook-Geha as Cornelia is wonderful. Her acting and singing combine to make a very enjoyable performance. Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson (Elvira in Sellar's Don Giovanni) as Sesto was beyond amazing (as with Cornelia.) The act one duet ("Sonata a Lagrimar") almost made me faint. Drew Minter's Countertenor Tolomeo was good but not great. His singing was acceptable but his acting was a little stinted. James Maddalena (Sellar's Guglielmo in Cosi and The Count in Figaro) as Achillas was wonderful. No other words can describe how good it was. His chemistry with Cornelia was heated. Cheryl Cobb's Nirena was greatly acted and sung to the extreme. I was SO glad that she got her often-cut 2nd act aria ("Che perdu un Momento) and she sings it to a T. Hermann Hildebrand (Sellar's Antonio in Figaro) was good as the small role of Curio.
The Conductor Craig Smith sets very good tempos and never exceeds what Handel has written. His singers don't seem labored by him at all. The orchestra is a good solid Baroque orchestra. Peter Sellar's Directing is very interpolative. He uses a lot of "song-and-dance" numbers/ interpretative dance in many arias and duets
My verdict: If you have to have one Giulio Cesare- get this one."
Smorgy | Southern California, USA | 11/04/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I generally like updated/modernized staging of old opera... as long as the original story and the music aren't compromised, that is. This Sellars production is just plain ridiculous. Cesare is something of a Nixon/PeeWee Hermann look-alike US President on a state visit to a resort hotel in Egypt... who finds it amusing lobbing pencil (nuke missile look-alikes) across the dining table at a punk rock Ptolemy. Guess they were having a heat wave on the set as everybody's sweating like condensation machines.
Cesare is horridly sung by the Counter-tenor Jeffrey Gall. Voice isn't anywhere nearly manly enough for this Roman dictator role, and coloratura is smudgy to the extreme. He comes off like a whiny gay man! Susan Larson's Cleopatra is more convincingly acted and does a bit better vocally. The voice is rich and creamy, but not quite at home with baroque music. The best singing come from the late Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson's Sesto and Mary Westbrook-Geha's Cornelia. Not enough to save the show for me, however.
Dunno why Craig Smith would put up with this wacky a production... but then these are the days of the regies... There are some great scenes, like the duet between Sesto and Cornelia that ends Act I, but these are hard to come by. The great muse scene in Act II appears to take place in Cesare's dream and is neither well visualized nor well sung. So the 3 stars are on the virtue of Haendel's beautiful score and the singing of Hunt-Lieberson and Westbrook-Geha.
There are some trailers of other Sellars productions on the 1st disc. Frankly, I bought the thing for Hunt-Lieberson's performance (and had seen a great clip of the Act I ending duet before hand)... not sure it was worth it."
Beg to differ...
San Franciscan | 11/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To my mind, this is the only one of Peter Sellars' productions which has aged well. I have it on LaserDisc, and it is one of the few operas my opera group asks to see again and again. It's clever and doesn't take itself too seriously in the wrong places. It can be incredibly moving; the Sesto-Cornelia duet is a heartbreaker. The singing is solid to exceptional throughout, no mean feat considering two countertenors are involved.
Part of the problem is that Sellars re-used this concept less successfully in future productions (e.g. Theodora). If you've seen too many such productions, the military concept may seem tired. But turn back the clock and pretend you are in the early 90's, and you may find that this production makes an ancient story seem very immediate."
Very good acting and singing
Steven Guy | Croydon, South Australia | 04/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this along with the Malgoire DVD of "Agrippina", which features some fine singing, but less than inspired stage directing and costumes.
The orchestra in this production of Giulio Cesare is my only cause for concern. The orchestra doesn't sound crisp, clear and clean to me. It even sounds a little stodgy in places. However, this is a minor quibble, because the singing and acting are first class.
I won't add a lot more to the positive reviews here, except to say that this is a very entertaining and interesting production. Sometimes, I love what Peter Sellars does (Theodora, for example) and, sometimes, I think he goes off the rails. Giulio Cesare is one of Sellars triumphs, in my opinion.
Jeffrey Gall, dressed as an American president, is an excellent Caesar and he was in fine voice when he made this recording. Lorraine Hunt makes an excellent Sextus, she left us far too early in life! Requiescat in pace. Drew Minter makes a very interesting and entertaining villain with his portrayal of Ptolemy. I have always liked his voice, too. I think Mr. Minter is involved in teaching these days? The entire cast is good and there are no weak links.
I am all for productions of Baroque opera which exhibit conjectural Baroque production standards, as in the Niquet DVD of Lully's Persée, for instance. However, I am open to a modern and imaginative approach to production if the results are as good as this.
Those who like this DVD should investigate the Christie/Sellars production of Handel's "Theodora", if they haven't already, and the more recent Christie/LAF DVD or Handel's "Hercules", which has become a real favourite of mine.
I only whish a better director had been brought into the Malgoire production of Handel's "Agrippina", which musically, is very good."
Worst Filming Ever!
Brent Trafton | Long Beach, CA | 12/07/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This would have made a decent video if it had been filmed competently but the video director chose to film everything in super macro close-up. I found it unbearable to watch!
It's a shame because the musical performance is excellent and Peter Sellars does a better job at staging Giulio Cesare than I expected. Of course, it's hard to tell since we can't tell what the stage looks like because the entire video is in super close-up.
I would recommend this video just for the music if there were no other choices for Giulio Cesare. But since there are several to choose from, you can do better than this. My recommendation is for the one conducted by William Christie.
I am surprised a big label like Decca would put out such a poorly made video.