Video Alert: “Giulio Cesare” live from Salzburg

Anne Sofie von Otter (Cornelia), making the jaws of alligators drop (no Tyrannosaurus this time, but I predict even that one would weep at Sono nata a lagrimar) Handel’s “Giulio Cesare”, Salzburg 2012. – Photo Credit: Hans-Jörg Michel for Salzburger Pfingstfestspiele]

It’s Handel live from Salzburg, or “your date with just about the whole mezzo range world on a plate” this Sunday: Anne Sofie von Otter, Cecilia Bartoli, Philippe Jaroussky and Andreas Scholl. And even a wink to the rather recent countertenor past with Jochen Kowalski (I remember the days when his recordings were the only male alto recordings available in Germany, unless you imported some Esswood or Deller from the UK).

And the best part: It’s 4h40min worth of Baroque glory available online for free. The ARTE tv channel airs the performance almost-live starting at 8.40 p.m. (GMT+1), at the same time, the “live” (the actual performance starts at 5 p.m.) web broadcast kicks off over at ArteLiveWeb, where the coutner so far states that the performance will be available for 60 days afterwards, which I hope will be true.

The production (yes, it even comes staged) is directed by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, who also brought us the Zurich Rossini “Otello” aka “Mona Dee & Dr. (Te)no(r)”. Giovanni Antonini of “Sacrificium” fame conducts.

Now the White Shirt aficionado may complain thatit’s a “hot mezzos in skirts” night only, with no mezzos in pants – unless you count von Oter’s Cornelia in coveralls (I do) – since Scholl tackles Cesare and Jaroussky will take on Sesto, which would have been two fine mezzo opportunities, but then again, the casting is so stellar that even I don’t care. Add Bartoli’s Cleopatra and von Otter’s Cornelia to the mix, and I’ll be in singing heaven anyway.

To round ou the cast, Christophe Dumaux reprises his killer Tolomeo (I’ve seen him live in this, he is a riot!), the aforementioned Jochen Kowalki stars as Nireno, Ruben Drole as Achilla and Peter Kálmán as Curio cover the bass line.

In a way, it’s last year’s Paris “Cesare” revisited, but von Otter really ups the ante yet another bit. More deails (and photos) over at the official website of the Salzburger Pfingstfestspiele.

Also in festival news, Cecilia Bartoli, artistic director of the Pfingstfestspiele, has just announced the 2013 program, which will include her taking on Bellini’s “Norma”, something she has been working towards for years.

After listening to her “Sonnambula”, I am looking forward to see what she will do with “Norma” – especially since I love the iconic Callas take on the role. And Naglestad’s (holy God, Naglestad!). But to have someone look at it in a period manner, with historically informed performance practice and keeping in mind that Maria Malibran sang Norma, too (voice range similar to Bartoli, if not voice size), should at least allow another look at this work and its performance history and I am really, really excited about that.

Meanwhile, for 2012, it’s “Fly me to the Moon, Cleopatra”:

[Cecilia Bartoli (Cleopatra) in Handel’s “Giulio Cesare” insert Anik trying not to make any rocket-in-pocket-Monroe-Who run the world? Girls! remark of the suggestive kind and failing, Salzburg 2012 – Photo Credit: Hanss-Jörg Michel for Salzburger Pfingstfestspiele]

See, the design even comes with the Pentecoast Dove included! Nifty. (although admit it, you didn’t notice the dove at all, you’re still stuck on THOSE BOOTS).

If anyone wants to live comment and share impressions, this thread will be open tomorrow night for commentary. I’ll make some virtual espresso, since 4h40 are 4h40, after all – now if someone could bring some cantuccini…?

38 thoughts on “Video Alert: “Giulio Cesare” live from Salzburg”

    1. that’s what I thought, but Christmas got moved to May 19th already – perhaps there are two Christmasses this year?


  1. Hohoho! I think this is pretty good evidence of what the polar elves have been busying doing in their lab. They’ve been cloning Santa Claus! 😀 Thanks a bunch for the heads up, Anik. I don’t expect my feet to make contact with the ground again anytime soon. 😀


    1. Was it a JW bottle – didn’t notice. And I could forgive PJ pretty well anything when he sings like that!


  2. von Otter + Jaroussky = HEAVEN!

    so often, this duet is just a snoozefest on the way to more Cleo dazzle or Giulio swagger, but right now, this is the highlight of my night so far.


    1. It’s like Romeo’s Deh tu bel anima or Ariodante’s Scherza infida, tho. So gorgeous and yet so devastating I’d love to hit the ‘replay’ button at the end, but feel like a sadist for even having that urge at all. 😛


      1. And I have been called away as well. You said this is available for a while afterwards? Hope to catch the rest very soon.
        G’night Anik, sorry didn’t even make it to the refreshments!


        1. it should be online for the next 60 days. – I need to tend to the coloratura soprano regarding refreshments; hope to be back eventually. If not, good night and thank you for blogging along!


  3. Von Otter and Jaroussky were most definitely the heart and soul of the opera. Their interaction during Sesto’s aria “Cara Speme, questo core” (gorgeously sung by PJ and I’m usually not a fan) had me in tears. “Son Nata” was also a triumph of both singing and acting.

    On a different note: κῦδος to La Otter for looking so divine and regal in overalls and wellies.


  4. The singers were absolutely wonderful, a trip to Heavens, but why such vulgarity in the direction ! it’s just a pity…


  5. I was there on Saturday night for the nearly 5 hours of Handel’s heavenly music and exceptional cast of singers. I absolutely adored the singing, Andreas Scholl’s mastery, Anne-Sofie van Otter’s majestic maitrise, Philippe Jarousski’s freshness and enthousiasm as well as Christophe Dumaux’s confirming talent. Cecilia Bartoli came finally clean in the wonderful aria “Piangero”. So far so good…
    What about the production though? I have never seen such a bad taste medley of all the current social and political themes conveyed to us every day by the media. Did we really need them hammered to us again in Giulio Cesare in Egitto? As an opera afficionado, I have seen many productions, traditional or modern, more or less “osees”… Yet, in Salzburg, the other night, it was beyond belief and seriously embarrassing. Did we need Bartoli looking like a cheap tart in lieu of Queen of Egypt whose empire threatened Rome and who charmed two of the most powerful men of the time Antony and Julius Ceasar? Did we need Christophe Dumaux challenging DSK on the rampage? And what about the vulgar green crocodile? The last straw was Bartoli, small and rotund in black thigh high platform boots straddling a plasic rocket and taking off gingerly to the skies! I bet you producers felt the urge to spell out to us, mere mortals, the sexual symbolism of it all! Needless to say that quite a few had enough by the third interval and left!


  6. what irked me about the production – I had feared worse after seeing only the stills – was the hamhandedness of it. Before, I thought there was no greater idea behind it, now I mainly think that decoration and execution were flawed. The same team did the recent Zurich “Otello” and the Zurich “Clarì”, e.g., where setting and stylization worked out nicely.

    That “Cesare” takes place in a North African country at war and that there is the next war around the corner at the end: not a bad background as a concept — but the staging didn’t work for me.
    Why e.g. the mix of symbolic (crocodile, rocket and Marilyn-wig (over the top, but in a strained, not in a charming way)), naturalistic (soldiers, tank, fleeing people) and the stylized (machine gun ballet)? It lacked a clear line, IMHO.

    The verging-on-cartoon costumes: they might have worked in a strictly symbolic/over-the-top reading, but it felt strained instead of confidently campy (perhaps that is what “Anonymous” tries to describe regarding Bartoli on the rocket) since parts of the evening tried to be social commentary.

    I am not a fan of mere noble posing in supposedly period-style robes; I enjoy discovering new perspectives and layers in works I love (and thought I knew backwards!), but this production didn’t do that for me. I see where it could have gone as a concept, but the execution of the concept didn’t work for me.

    That said, there were nice moments, mostly in combination with character work on part of the singers – von Otter’s Cornelia losing decorum and drinking, e.g., telling more about her than regal bearing throughout might have, or the small moment of Cornelia entering the harem with defiant disdain.

    I do hope for more consistent storytelling for “Norma” next year.


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