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Handel: Giulio Cesare Live, Box set

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Live, Box set, August 12, 2003
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

This new recording of Handel's great Giulio Cesare was taped live in Vienna and has the exciting aura of a live performance--and also some of the problems. Minkowski leads an exciting reading, and he has a Caeser who can keep up with his aggressive tempi: mezzo Marijana Mijanovic sings fluently, accurately, and with stunning tone and great involvement, and the fact that she sounds as if she might be a countertenor only helps the situation. Magdalena Kozena's Cleopatra is wonderful as well--insinuating, ruthless, sad, loving by turns, and (although we're accustomed to the role being sung by a higher-voiced woman) Kozena is properly feminine and alluring. (Still, no-one compares with Beverly Sills on RCA.) Charlotte Hellekant's Cornelia is moving and well sung but could use a somewhat darker tone; Bejun Mehta's countertenor rings forth with style as Tolomeo. A problem is Anne Sofie von Otter's Sesto--she sounds tired--and occasionally, the orchestra is less than accurate. René Jacobs' recording on Harmonia Mundi remains the first choice, but this is a very close second. Handel lovers will need both. --Robert Levine
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Product Details

  • Performer: Marijana Mijanovic, Magdalena Kozena, Anne Sofie von Otter, Charlotte Hellekant, Bejun Mehta, et al.
  • Orchestra: Les Musiciens du Louvre
  • Conductor: Marc Minkowski
  • Composer: George Frideric Handel
  • Audio CD (August 12, 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Live, Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Archiv
  • ASIN: B000094HLD
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,955 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By F. Rupert on December 12, 2012
Format: Audio CD
This performance of Giulio Cesare strikes me as first-class all the way. Amazon's blurb says it is from a live performance, but you wouldn't necessarily know that -- I didn't -- from listening to it. I have not heard Amazon's first choice, but I struggle to imagine that it would be a significant improvement over this performance. Minkowski's tempi seem entirely reasonable, and aggressive is not the word I would use. Minkowski's control over orchestral dynamics is extraordinary. Non-musicians often don't know that playing softly is often a lot harder than being loud. The concluding duet of Cleopatra and Caesar at the end of Act 1 is extraordinary. The singers and the orchestra achieve ethereal pianissimos of great technical skill and emotional communication.

Overall, it's a splendid Giulio Cesare that I would highly recommend.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is not a complete recording of the Handel's opera.
The music generally flows very smoothly under the baton of Minkowski, but there are a couple of problems.
In the vocal camp, Mijanovic's Cesare is passable, but not outstanding. While she can sing the virtuosic passages well enough, she lacks the low, dark and shimmering timbre like Sonia Prina's to tackle this role in a truly effective manner.
Hellekant and von Otter in the other Roman camp are similarly less than ideal - Hellekant lacks the expressivity as the widow of Pompei, while von Otter's Sesto is sorely underpowered.
The good news lies in the Egyptian camp, with Magdalena Kozena singing an alluring, expressive and colourful mezzo-soprano Cleopatra who truly rivals Troyanos's, though if one prefers a soprano Cleopatra, one would opt for Inga Dam Jansen's.
As her brother Tolomeo, Bejun Mehta gives perhaps the best vocal performance of the whole lot with just a couple of 'left-over' arias of Tolomeo after the cut. The dynamic and expressive singing of Mehta fully depicts the aggressiveness of Tolomeo, and Mijanovic's rather under-powered Cesare is clearly no match for him dramatically. There is a slightly metallic tinge to Mehta's timbre that distinguishes him from a female alto.
With so many modern first class revivals of this wonderful opera, this early 2000 release may not withstand the up-coming 'new waves'.
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Format: Audio CD
Minkowski’s Giulio Cesare is an impressive creation, not to be missed by anyone who cares about this work. It’s not quite complete, dropping one of Cleopatra’s Act One arias as live performances tend to do in order to avoid wearing out the soprano’s voice, and that fact, plus a few weak spots, means that it can’t replace the Jacobs recording as the first building block of a collection. But nobody who loves this opera will stop with just one, and after you’ve got the Jacobs and the scintillating Glyndeborne video, the Minkowski is next up for the well-built Handel collection.
The Cleopatra, Marijana Mijanovics, is a brilliant singer with a lovely sound. Her only conspicuous failure is in Venere Bella, where a quick tempo shows off her technique but misses the character’s self-confident charm. She goes deep into the drama of Se pieta and offers a layered reading of Piangero, with her first pass through the “A” section seems lovely, but a bit restrained. This turns out to be a set-up for a dramatic “B” section and a rapt emotional reading of the “A” section da capo. Her Da tempeste dazzles as it should. As the title character Cleo seduces and then falls for, Magdalena Kozena is likewise outstanding, though her reading of Caesar’s big scene after emerging from the waves lacks the emotion some Caesars have brought to the role. Charlotte Hellekant was a disappointing Cornelia, lacking the smooth control of tone with which the better performers of that role convey her dignity, and maintain vocal beauty while expressing her sadness. Hellekant instead tries to show passion through extra vibrato and upsets the balance. The great duet with her son Sesto, which closes the first act, somehow never quite gels; the sheer heartbreak of the number comes off better in several other versions.
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Format: Audio CD
This is an exquisite recording. having read previous reviews for it, I can't agree with the detractors. I found each artist portrayed their character with integrity and glorious singing. Especially impressive where the lead roles of Cesare and Cleopatra. It is Handel at his very best - sensuous, rich and flawlessly crafted. I loved every note of this interpretation.
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