Giulio Cesare: Andreas Scholl, countertenor Cleopatra: Cecilia Bartoli, mezzo-soprano Cornelia: Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano Sesto: Philippe Jaroussky, countertenor Tolomeo: Christophe Dumaux, countertenor Nireno: Jochen
Kowalski, countertenor Achilla: Ruben Drole, bass Curio: Peter Kálmán, bass
Conductor: Giovanni Antonini, l'Orchestre Il Giardino Armonico Regisseur: Olivier Simonnet Production: Moshe Leiser et Patrice Caurier
While watching Giulio Cesare stream from Salzburg, I took notes.
The production is in modern dress, soldiers with helmets and rifles dancing. There is fire on the stage. The stage is full of lizards and oil wells. The chorus is not much.
Scholl as Caesar in a medium blue suit steps out of a limousine with a statue of himself lying on the roof. The statue is taken off and placed on the stage. To the victor belong the spoils. He wears the Roman victory laurel, but quickly takes it off. He sits down and reads the newspapers while singing about victory.
Von Otter and Jaroussky, Pompey's family, appear in time to see Pompey's head delivered in a blue box with a green ribbon. Caesar doesn't know what's in the box and opens it in front of the family.
Caesar goes back to the car to get his gun and sings through the window. Now he is mad as hell. Jaroussky is dressed as a kid. I completely do not buy the head left lying on the floor. They would have done something with it. Cornelia is in despair and puts her head in a lizard's mouth. Sesto is pissed and sees a ghost of Dad. He at least acknowledges the head on the floor.
Cecilia Bartoli is the Intendant of this festival and has made sure she gets plenty of costumes for this opera. No more operas where she spends the whole night in her night gown or a black dress. In her first entrance she is wearing boots and a leopard trench coat. Cute. She dances around the statue of Caesar. There are obscene gestures. This part of the opera is all about having fun.
Her brother Tolomeo throws the statue of Caesar on the floor and kicks it. He tears it up and pulls out its insides. For some unknown reason it has insides. He makes the head of Pompey and the head of Caesar kiss. He is a bum with tattoos, corn rows and long hair. I am booing. So is the audience.
Caesar comes out and lights an oil drum. He takes Pompey's head and puts it in the burning drum. At least he treats it with some respect.
You have guessed by now that this is serious Eurotrash. If it weren't for streaming we wouldn't get to see this sort of thing in America. Philistine that I am, I am enjoying it.
Cleopatra is disguised as Lydia, but as usual, the eyes give her away. She wears a wig that looks like pictures from Maria.
Except sometimes she doesn't. My dear, you are wasting all these charms on me. I already love you. This production is pretty smutty. However, there is absolutely no problem following the plot. It's theatrically quite viable.
Sesto is planning his revenge, puts soot on his face. Cleopatra as Lydia offers to help.
Caesar and Tolomeo meet over drinks. Caesar pours his drink into the flowers, and they immediately wilt. Papers are signed over oil wells, smiles and handshakes are photographed, and Caesar goes off in his limousine.
The Act ends with von Otter and Jaroussky singing an incredibly gorgeous “Son nata a lagrimar” duet.
Act II begins with the seduction scene. Caesar puts on 3D glasses to watch the show.
Cleopatra is sitting on a rocket wearing a blond, frizzy wig, sun glasses, black gloves and a camouflage trench coat. She takes off the coat to show black boots and gray feathers. More giant Sally Rand style feathers appear, held up by men. If I'm the star, I get costumes, dammit. And half naked men to hold my feathers. She sings "V'adoro pupille" and then sails off on the rocket. You knew that. Big cheers.
Caesar is sunk.
I'm not sure why, but I like Eurotrash for Handel.
Tolomeo is still trying to seduce Cornelia who tries to pour gasoline over herself and set herself on fire. Sesto stops her. He sings about snakes in front of a film of snakes. Jaroussky brings a masculine energy to the role of Sesto that a woman could not. He shoots the snake while singing insane coloratura.
Everyone warns Caesar that Tolomeo is coming, but he slowly puts on his shoes and explains he has no fear. Cleopatra wears a gold robe in this scene. Caesar flees but takes his time.
Cleopatra picks up a machine gun and waves it around. She wants the gods to protect Caesar. This aria “Se pietà” is a prayer with dancing soldiers. In the audience is a shouter. This time he says, "Gigante!" It was amazing.
Tolomeo is reading Playboy and ogling the centerfold. Caesar jumps into the sea, and Cleopatra leads the Romans against Tolomeo.
Sesto fails again to kill Tolomeo, and to end the act Cornelia and Sesto strap a bomb around his waist so he can become a suicide bomber.
At the beginning of Act III Achilla is shot. Tolomeo captures Cleopatra and makes her kneel and put a bag over her head. She thinks all is lost. Cecilia Bartoli sings the entire aria "Piangero," brilliantly, kneeling on the floor with a bag over her head.
Caesar can swim and comes up out of the sea. He lies down on the floor amid a group of dying soldiers. Caesar takes the bomb off of Sesto.
Caesar rescues Cleopatra just in time for "Da tempeste." She is happy and dances around an oil well. Curio gives her a note and some money. She counts it and gives him some. A piano comes out, and Cleopatra finishes the aria decorating the stage with strings of lights.
Tolomeo and Cornelia come out. She pulls a gun on him, but Sesto arrives and stabs Tolomeo with his bayonet.
The winners come back, surround the piano and smoke a little pot. Where do I get a picture of Cecilia inhaling? She's wearing a gold lame dress in this scene. She has her wig again.
Scholl and Bartoli sing a wonderful love duet while rolling around on the floor. No longer dead, Tolomeo joins the finale. At the end a real tank appears in the alley behind the stage.
Question: if you could do anything you wanted, would it be this?