Met Opera’s Giulio Cesare Dazzles with English Colonial Flair

Wow! Just saw the Met’s production of GIULIO CESARE by Handel. Wow is the operative word. It has left me breathless.

First, I LOVE baroque opera! The Contralto voice is sooooooooooooo intriguing. The contralto, David Daniels, was fabulous as Julius Caesar. No wonder he is the world’s leading countertenor.

Second, the voice/singing was top-notch! Very difficult parts for Caesar and Cleopatra. And both delivered!

Natalie Dessay as Cleopatra in a scene from Act II.  Photo: Marty Sohl/Met Opera
Natalie Dessay as Cleopatra in a scene from Act II. Photo: Marty Sohl/Met Opera

Third, Sir David McVicar’s staging was phenomenal! Instead of Egypt, it is the entire Mediterranean mid-East and beyond to the Balkans. Using the period of the English grab of the Suez Canal, the transformation of the Roman conquest of the area into English imperial colonization some 2K years later is genius. And McVicar’s use of a mélange of Northern African to East Asian themes and styles was brilliant. The sets, the choreography, the entire staging of this new production was WOW!

And SEXY to boot! Much implied “different” sexual appetites portrayed so skillfully well. I found myself squirming much of the time – to my delight!

Fourth, the Bollywood choreography was a great take on English colonialism. How can Natalie Dessay as Cleopatra deliver these arias and dance at the same time? Amazing!

Lastly, the music! Lush, gorgeous. Little use of recitatives and mucho, mucho arias, complete with full runs showcasing the principals’ range and remarkable talents.This opera — and particularly this production — is my new favorite opera! Suggest you catch the replay.

You can watch clips and get viewing info here on the Met website.

Grade B+

Review by Armin Callo