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MET's Giulio Cesare


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#1 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 02:21 PM

Who went to the house..? Who saw it at the cinema...? I went, and have to say, what wonderful 5 hours did I I spent..!

More to come, but...for now, just two names that OUGHT to be applauded here...Christophe Dumaux as Ptolomeo and Patricia Bardon as Cornelia. Oh my... 'nouf said...Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

And then, a beautiful "Se pieta di me non senti" by Dessay...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzV1FNfCbbk

#2 Birdsall

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 02:33 PM

I didn't see it, but I am glad to hear Dessay is doing better. She has had a lot of problems vocally, in my opinion, ever since her node surgeries. This was an amazing singer early in her career, and I actually thought her career was basically over from reviews I have read in recent years, but it makes me glad to hear that she sang well today. Maybe it is a case of her re-learning her technique after the troubles she has had.

#3 Helene

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 02:41 PM

I saw it in the cinema. Dumaux was a fabulous actor, and he even got me past my great dislike of countertenors. (My usual question when hearing one is, "Would I prefer to hear Marilyn Horne sing it?," and the answer is, invariably, "Yes.") I had heard him before at the Dallas Fair Grounds, where pre-Winspear Dallas heard opera through the worst acoustics I've ever heard. (A perfectly audible singer would move five feet to the right, and it was as if he or she was suddenly behind a tall, concrete wall.) He also was in his 20's in that Dallas performance of Unolfo in "Rodelinda," and his voice may have filled out more in the meantime. For people who hear him in the house, was his voice strong? (The miking for HD's distorts the relative volumes of the singers.) He looked like the love child of Kevin Kline in the "Pirates of Penzance" and Mariusz Kwiecien.

Bardon I liked very much after her first aria, in which she sounded far off pitch to me. My favorite moment of hers was the duet with Sextus at the end of Act II: she and Alice Coote were so simpatico, voice- and interpretation-wise. My favorite singing was Coote's, apart from the opening aria, which was fine, but Joyce DiDonato recently got a much deeper performance from a Juilliard graduate student, Rachel Wilson, during her master class there earlier this year. (Sadly, it's the only segment of the master class that was un-published from the school's YouTube channel.) Bicket may have taken it at a faster clip. I love Coote's voice: it has brightness and underlying heft.

For me Dessay's high point was the lament that ended Act II. Maybe the tessitura was low for her, because towards the end she spun some lovely high notes, but it sounded to me that there wasn't a floor to her voice for most of the fast coloratura singing. In the slower singing, where she has to show sorrow, depth, and maturity, she's amazing. She was a fantastic actress, and I thought she did a wonderful job with the dancing.

I also loved Guido Loconsolo's Achillas. I kept wishing he was singing Giulio Cesare. I once heard Norman Treigle sing it on a bad vocal day for him, and it was 100 times preferable than hearing Daniels. Did I mention a great dislike of countertenors?

#4 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 03:05 PM

Daniels singing did not flourish, IMO. His coloratura sounded strained, and the low register was very opaque. Everytime Dumaux came singing right after Daniels, you cold tell the difference. Dumaux sounded rich, powerful...it was like night and day. The Coote/Bardon duetto was so beautiful...

#5 Helene

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 03:06 PM

Daniels' voice didn't have much color.

#6 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 03:11 PM

Daniels' voice didn't have much color.


Not at all...he seemed to struggle with his fioritura choices, and looked breathless at times. He was also very mannered, whereas Dumaux seemed to be at ease with his vocal parts and acting. I LOVED him.

BTW...I hated Dessay's vaudeville act with the umbrella.

#7 kfw

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 03:29 PM

Did I mention a great dislike of countertenors?


Yes, as someone who didn't grow up with opera and has never quite "gotten" them, that's very interesting to read. I wonder how widespread the feeling is among knowledgeable and longtime opera lovers.

The Baroque is not at all my favorite era, and Giulio Cesare is about the fourth or fifth HD transmission I passed up this year for one reason or another, in this case because I didn't think I could handle 5 hours of Handel. But as it turned out this afternoon, I never turned off the radio.

#8 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 03:35 PM

The countertenor issue. Well, for me I had it clear today, seeing two men in the parts, one whom I didn't feel comfortable with and another for which I just was thinking "what a beautiful voice", despite the non-manly sound.

#9 Birdsall

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 06:57 PM

Believe it or not, David Daniels was at one time (about 15 years ago) the best counter tenor around and who actually helped a lot of people accept the sound. He broke down a lot of barriers for the counter tenor. I suspect he will be remembered as one of the ground breaking counter tenors. He made that voice type much more mainstream. But I have heard clips and I know that he is no longer singing at the level he once was. I have heard that he is teaching at least some of the time. It is sad to see singers that I liked one by one fall from grace. It is like watching Gods fall and die.

I have to admit that I tend to prefer mezzos (females) doing these roles as trouser roles. But I try to keep an open mind. Sometimes it is nice to see a real man playing a man, but I think the females in drag usually have a richer and more impressive sound. Very few counter tenors seem to be able to color the voice which also means they do not express emotion as well.

kfw, if sung well and repeats left intact (which makes it longer but actually is how the da capo arias should be sung) it can actually be a wonderful evening. I look at a Handel opera almost like a concert of one bravura aria after another. Then, it gets exciting (sort of like a ballet gala with one great variation after another). I love to hear what types of embellishments the singer will add to the repeat. It is interesting how some singers (or maybe the conductors or friends who prepare their embellishments) sing ornaments that sound so "right" while others will sing jarring embellishments that just do not sound right at all, and you aren't always sure why. I love extra trills thrown in anytime though! I have seen Guilio Cesare a couple of times. Once well sung (and David Daniels was in the cast as well as the amazing Rosemary Joshua as Cleopatra) and another time horribly sung and it put me to sleep. The performance that was heavily cut is the one that was actually much more boring!!! The art of ornamenting the music makes or breaks Handel for me. If the arias are cut of the repeats (therefore no embellishments) or the singers have ridiculous embellishments that make you laugh out loud.....well, then Handel fails big time. But with the right singers Handel's operas will actually fly by and be a total joy.

#10 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 07:35 PM

The five hours-(sans the intermezzos)-went by wonderfully today for me, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better than my Wagnerian's last experience-(dragging afternoon that it was...).

#11 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 07:48 PM

Dumaux...


#12 Helene

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Posted 28 April 2013 - 04:25 PM

Believe it or not, David Daniels was at one time (about 15 years ago) the best counter tenor around and who actually helped a lot of people accept the sound. He broke down a lot of barriers for the counter tenor. I suspect he will be remembered as one of the ground breaking counter tenors. He made that voice type much more mainstream. But I have heard clips and I know that he is no longer singing at the level he once was. I have heard that he is teaching at least some of the time. It is sad to see singers that I liked one by one fall from grace. It is like watching Gods fall and die.

I have to admit that I tend to prefer mezzos (females) doing these roles as trouser roles. But I try to keep an open mind. Sometimes it is nice to see a real man playing a man, but I think the females in drag usually have a richer and more impressive sound. Very few counter tenors seem to be able to color the voice which also means they do not express emotion as well.

Daniels was The Guy for a long time. It's not that I don't appreciate what he did, but it takes something more, like Dumaux's wonderful acting and movement quality, for a countertenor to keep me interested in the voice type. I'm not sure why, but I really liked a male soprano, David Korn -- a true soprano, not a countertenor -- who was in the Seattle Opera Young Artists Program a few years ago and who sang in the program's production of Britten's "The Turn of the Screw." (I remember that well, partly because in the Q&A after the program, someone in the audience asked a question of Dean Williamson, who conducted the performance, and Peter Kazaras, the program director who directed the opera, and Speight Jenkins jumped in an argued with each other (in a friendly manner), with Williamson standing there waiting for them to finish.)

In the case of Cesare, it's not even a matter of mezzo vs. countertenor: I prefer a bass in the role. (My hypothetical Marilyn Horne question is about voice quality if a part has to be in that range.) There's only one other major dark voice in the cast, and I really missed having Cesare as a bass.

Did I mention a great dislike of countertenors?


Yes, as someone who didn't grow up with opera and has never quite "gotten" them, that's very interesting to read. I wonder how widespread the feeling is among knowledgeable and longtime opera lovers.

As Birdsall wrote, while there were countertenors in the past, Daniels was the first major artist to make countertenors mainstream, and because he was an inspiration, there was finally critical mass. When I was growing up with opera, most of my exposure to countertenors was in oratorios or recitals.

Is there anyone here who started going to the opera during the rise of the countertenor, and who grew up on countertenors?

The Baroque is not at all my favorite era, and Giulio Cesare is about the fourth or fifth HD transmission I passed up this year for one reason or another, in this case because I didn't think I could handle 5 hours of Handel. But as it turned out this afternoon, I never turned off the radio.

That's a shame. I had mixed feelings about the production, but it moved and was full of vitality. It was worth consideration. It should be on PBS eventually, though.

#13 Birdsall

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Posted 28 April 2013 - 05:47 PM

For me mezzos in the male roles have a heftier sound than most counter tenors.

As for not "getting" counter tenors, kfw, you are definitely not alone. Many opera lovers can't stand them. I am open to them, but I actually do prefer their roles cast with females.

Helene, I assume the Treigle recording is your favorite for Guilio Cesare then!

#14 Helene

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Posted 28 April 2013 - 05:50 PM

Even though Treigle was weak in the performance I saw, he's still my favorite live Giulio Cesare. I only had the Sills/Treigle recording: it's an opera I never collected. Posted Image

#15 Birdsall

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Posted 28 April 2013 - 06:47 PM

I actually enjoy the Sills/Treigle recording even though it is cut and if I remember correctly some arias are out of order. I haven't listened to it in a long time, so correct me if I am wrong. But it was back when baroque opera was still not well researched.

I think it is the best recording of Sills. She is one singer I don't "get" normally. I don't like the sound of her voice usually and don't think she was vocally or dramatically spectacular judging by her recordings and videos. I guess it is a case where you had to be there. BUT in this Julius Cesar recording I feel she did her best work ever.


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