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Giulio Cesare

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

I have always adored Handel's music but when I first saw this production at Glyndebourne, it was a real revelation. An extraordinarily beautiful staging with real drama, but also full of humour and a great deal of dancing - Bollywood style!

David McVicar's take on Giulio Cesare left me completely stunned - I have never felt so many different emotions during one performance - it made me both laugh and cry in equal measure. In one scene you are deeply touched by the genuine torment the singers express and in the next, without undermining the story or the music, you delight in the humour and are uplifted by the enchanting dancing that seems to fit so perfectly with Handel's lively rhythms.

The singing, acting and dancing of this all star cast is outstanding and is led by Sarah Connolly as a superb and very convincing Giulio Cesare. Danielle de Niese is a sexy, mesmerizing Cleopatra and a consummate singer/actress who steals the show (you can see more of her discussing this, her debut Glyndebourne performance, in the extra bonus features). William Christie draws rich and magical playing from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, revealing the dramatic, lively and tender layers in Handel's luscious music.

In the documentary feature McVicar says 'Entertainment is not a Dirty Word' and I absolutely agree with him. Opera was always meant to entertain and this production does just that! It is one of the few I can watch again and again and I highly recommend a night on the sofa with this DVD.


There's a chance that purists will be very unhappy with director David McVicar's production of this Baroque masterpiece; there's also an equal chance that they'll be so vastly entertained that all criticisms will be beside the point. Updated to the years before World War I, Caeser's troops are British soldiers come to colonize Egypt, the latter being a place filled with exoticisms in the form of acres of billowing silk, flashy costumes, and full-blown song and dance numbers a la Bollywood (featuring sex-kitten Cleopatra and her minions). It's not only funny/campy, it also makes a certain internal sense. The razzle-dazzle is laid aside for the personal tragedy of Cornelia and Sesto (Patricia Bardon and Angelika Kirchschlager, respectively)--here portrayed as a beaten-down woman in a pathetic rage and a son on the verge of insanity--and for Caeser's and Cleopatra's more introspective moments. Caeser is mezzo Sarah Connelly, in firm voice and with the bearing of an emperor. Cleopatra is the 25-year-old American Daniele de Niese, ravishing in person and voice, with charisma, nerve, and talent in equal proportions. Countertenor Christopher Dumaux' bitchy-queen Tolomeo is remarkable, and the Achilles of bass Christopher Maltman is menacing. William Christie leads the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment with great spirit and dramatic thrust, and the production values---subtitles in major European languages and English, stereo and surround sound, and picture---are ideal. Extras include interviews with the director and singers and an up-close look at Danielle de Niese. This is a fascinating, grand entertainment that may just make new friends for Baroque opera. ---Robert Levine

Special Features

  • Sung in Italian with English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian subtitles
  • Danielle de Niese and the Glyndebourne Experience: an informal portrait of Danielle de Niese in her first Glyndebourne season
  • Entertainment Is Not a Dirty Word: a documentary by Ferenc van Damme
  • Production photo gallery
  • Rehearsals photo gallery
  • Cast gallery
  • Illustrated synopsis

Product Details

  • Actors: William Christie, Sarah Connolly, Angelika Kirchschlager, Danielle De Niese, Christophe Dumaux
  • Directors: David McVicar, Robin Lough
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, NTSC, Anamorphic, DTS Surround Sound, Subtitled
  • Language: Italian (DTS 5.1), Italian (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Opus Arte
  • DVD Release Date: May 16, 2006
  • Run Time: 233 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ESST6U
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,267 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Giulio Cesare" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

This is one of the most sensational opera productions available on DVD.
Charles Beck
Sarah Connolly dominates the stage, moves with a masculine swagger, and makes a most effective Caesar.
Paul Van de Water
This is a wonderfully entertaining modern production with a great Baroque opera at its heart.
Michael Birman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Michael Birman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 22, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
First performed 20 February 1724 and frequently revived thereafter during Handel's lifetime, Giulio Cesare, like all of his operas, fell into obscurity for 2 centuries. Supposedly, they were uninteresting to a modern audience and unperformable by modern performers. Recent scholarship proved the absurdity of this mistaken viewpoint. Handel's operas are joining his oratorios in the repertory with Cesare probably most performed along with Serse.

Cleopatra made a star of Beverly Sills. I think it may do the same for the uncommonly beautiful Danielle de Niese whose stunning appearance and rich soprano fill the Glyndebourne stage with that ineffable quality called 'starpower'. Glyndebourne and Opus Arte must agree because they showcase Ms. de Niece in a 30 minute documentary on disc 1 called 'Danielle de Niece and the Glyndebourne experience'! In it, appealing to the under 30 audience is explicitly discussed. Every aspect of this staging of Cesare is created with that mission in mind. Another documentary film included in the set is 'Entertainment is not a dirty word'. If you can deal with all this, you will enjoy this 3 disc DVD immensely. I found this performance funny, entertaining, inventive, a little glitzy (in a good way) and well sung. On the negative side, I found it slightly weaker dramatically but with some absorbing tragic singing from Angelika Kirschlager as Sesto and Patricia Bardon as Sesto's mother Cornelia. Sarah Connolly makes a fine Cesare. Christopher Maltman is a standout Achilla. The cast is quite good and they appear to be enjoying themselves. In a 4 hour opera that is probably helpful.

William Christie is a superb conductor of Baroque opera. He has been joining his talents to productions that emphasize a more modern sensibilty.
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52 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Paul Van de Water on May 27, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Musically, this recording of "Giulio Cesare" is surely the best on either CD or DVD. Until now, my two favorites have been the New York City Opera-Beverly Sills-Norman Treigle production from 1966-67 (which I saw in person) and Rene Jacobs' 1992 recording on Harmonia Mundi. No longer, however, does one have to sacrifice drama for completeness and original pitch. Conductor William Christie, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and a superb Glyndebourne cast prove that historically informed performance can be even more exciting and absorbing than the shortened, transposed versions from the early days of the Baroque revival. Sarah Connolly (as Caesar), Danielle de Niese (as Cleopatra), and the other singers and instrumentalists equal or exceed their predecessors in all respects. (The horns in the opening and closing choruses will just blow you away--pun intended.)

The production portrays Caesar as a 19th century British imperialist, but the conceit is worn lightly and is generally successful. (I can't explain the anachronistic dirigibles, destroyers, and ocean liner that appear in the harbor of Alexandria at various points.) In the documentary that accompanies the performance, director David McVicar acknowledges that some of Cleopatra's stage action is inspired by Bollywood films, but even these scenes do not seem inappropriate. Remember that other serious Baroque and classical operas, such as Serse and Don Giovanni, contain humorous elements.

The two protagonists could not be bettered, either vocally or dramatically. Sarah Connolly dominates the stage, moves with a masculine swagger, and makes a most effective Caesar. And it's no wonder that the older man falls for the beautiful, funny, flirtatious, and phenomenally talented 26-year old Danielle de Niese.
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Format: DVD
David McVicar's spirited, audacious 2005 Glyndebourne staging of Handel's preeminent opera seria comes to life in a surprisingly robust 2006 DVD package that spreads the marathon, four-hour work over three discs. Not nearly as outrageous as David Alden or Peter Sellars, McVicar exhibits a more manageable theatrical flair with an idiosyncratic blend of historical periods and dramatic styles from slapstick to melodrama. Bolstered by Robert Jones' impressive sets, it's a lavish production that places the classic story of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra within the context of the 18th century British imperialism encroaching upon Egypt. Above all else is G.F. Handel's wondrous music, including some of his best arias, impeccably played by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment led by estimable Baroque specialist William Christie.

A splendid cast has been assembled starting with British mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly who transforms herself most convincingly into a stalwart male for the title role. Performing in an especially low Baroque pitch, Connolly sings superbly while perfectly evoking the swagger of a warrior. With her stunning coloratura, she hits the expected high points without disappointment - Act I's "Va tacito e nascosto"; Act II's casually lyrical "Se in fiorito ameno prato" competing with a virtuoso violin solo by Nadja Zwiener; and Act III's "Aure, deh, per pieta" when Caesar returns to Egypt after his escape from Tolomeo. As Cleopatra, 25-year old Australian-American soprano Danielle de Niese is a ravishing presence along the lines of Angelina Jolie.
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