Giulio Cesare on the radio
Italians aren’t afraid of lingering at the opera until after midnight. This Rai Radio 3 livestreaming from Teatro Regio in Torino finished at around 00:15am local time. The show had its own personality. How much you like this personality is another thing. I think Maestro went rather slowly and the ornaments he wrote for his singers weren’t the most interesting. Yet I conceed I may still be under the influence of the Glyndebourne production. I recently attempted to listen to a Giulio Cesare production from the ’60s and I had a lot of trouble getting into it, as it sounded very alien. I did expect it to and I was still resistant.
Now it’s true that ‘Cesare isn’t my favourite Handel opera. I’m not sure why, there are plenty of great individual arias. It might be because aside from Cesare himself, Cleopatra and, to a lesser extent, Tolomeo, the other characters are a bit boring (for me). And even these three aren’t all that interesting. I think this is the kind of opera one should see rather than just listen to. It still was by and large entertaining, with the singers sounding uniformly good.
Giulio Cesare: Sonia Prina
Cleopatra: Jessica Pratt
Cornelia: Sara Mingardo
Sesto: Maite Beaumont
Tolomeo: Jud Perry
Achilla: Guido Loconsolo
Nireno: Ricardo Angelo Strano
Curio: Antonio Abete
Conductor: Alessandro de Marchi | Orchestra and Choir of the Teatro Regio, Torino
Judging by the extraneous sounds (traffic? During the second intermission the presenter talked about what was going on on stage but I was too tired to focus by then), it appeared this was a fairly busy productions with the characters always doing something or another whilst singing. For better or worse. I think it was rather for the worse at it caught the singers breathless here and there.
Svegliatevi nel core: Beaumont let it rip! Pity there was no replay.
Cleopatra’s first aria: how lovely and secure were those high notes? Pratt sounded pretty playful too.
Empio! Sleale! Indegno!: one of the most fun arias in this opera. Never heard of Perry before but he wasn’t bad. I think he could’ve sounded a tad more outraged and contemptuous but I’m inordinately fond of OTT contempt 😉 Was there a wooden cart on stage or what?
Va tacito: Prina + horns = more of that, please
Cornelia and Sesto duet: very sensitively done by Mingardo and Beaumont. Pity their stuff is mostly mournful, they were otherwise very good.
interval interviews: there was first one with the conductor but I had to walk away and have something to eat (Handel always needs a grub intake break). Then Pratt talked about finding it easy to sing Cleopatra, and how she saw the character as very intelligent and vivacious.
Se in fiorito: done characterfully, rubato-y. Here’s where I didn’t particularly like de Marchi’s ornaments (sort of plodding?) but as sheer sound they worked well with Prina’s voice.
A lampo dell’armi: pretty good, whatever stage business they had Prina do caused her voice to waiver during the coloratura. The mora, Cesare, mora! choir was a bit loose and perhaps underpowered.
end of act II Cleopatra aria: Pratt has lots of talents, lots of interpolation. Still sounds belcanto-y. Good, bad? Maybe needs some getting used to in this repertoire.
interval interviews: Mingardo said she sees Cornelia as self-assured, tactful, wise and sophisticated. She said Cornelia was not that hard to sing but very pleasant for the voice. (Still, too damn mournful.)
Prina was very talkative and chatted a mile a minute! Following her forced me to stretch the reaches of my limited Italian. But I learned that both she and Pratt played the trumpet growing up (not together, although that would have been fun. Should we keep playing? How about we start singing?). Asked what she liked best about Cesare she retorted she liked Orlando better. Haha! She said she didn’t think Cesare was a very psychologically detailed character but fun and manly all right. After which she joked that Pratt’s Cleopatra was 20cm taller. She later wondered why Italians didn’t much like the Baroque repertoire and was happy she had the opportunity to sing some Handel in Italy nevertheless. She was asked why she wasn’t singing girls – like Carmen (she sometimes does! I discovered her in Rossini’s La pietra del paragone). She said she finds the Baroque musical language more inspiring.
Piangero la sorte mia: gorgeous coloratura, top note interpolation, drama (lots of vocal chutzpah), softness = the works. Regarding top note interpolation, de Marchi kept returning to it with Pratt; I’m not into that omg, how amazing, s/he hit the high C 5 times in a row!!! type of thing but, given the choice, I would go for low note interpolation (surprise, I know); not to say that Pratt’s top isn’t great, just that for me this interpolation business is pointless fluff. Then again, maybe they like this kind of thing in Italy.
wet and sad, Cesare re-appeared from the sea: Prina reminded us how expressive of soulful drama her voice is.
Da tempesta: slowish. Throughout the show you could tell Pratt had a lot of experience in belcanto, as her voice is fuller than your regular Baroque specialist’s. It’s interesting hearing something like that after only being familiar with DeNiese and Dessay’s chirpiness.
Cesare and Cleopatra duet: perhaps the best thing – low notes (a satisfying amount), high notes (not too many), gorgeous meshing of voices, joyful feel.
It wasn’t bad. It had the unusual benefit of me liking everyone’s voice (men included). But it wasn’t spellbinding. Perhaps it lacked imagination… perhaps it was just me and I should get over myself. Perhaps had I been there I’d have appreciated it a lot more. There’s such a thing as “you had to be there”.