* Notes *
The Tuesday opening of Giulio Cesare at Salle Pleyel was stunning. For one thing, most of the singing was breathtaking. Both low voices were lovely, these being Andreas Wolf (Curio) and Umberto Chiummo (Achilla). The latter enunciated particularly well, and his aria "Se a me non sei crudele" was strong. Rachid Ben Abdeslam seemed quite excited to be on stage as Nireno, as did Christophe Dumaux as Tolomeo. Dumaux is such a clown, perhaps a touch too much for the villain in an unstaged concert version of this work. On the other hand, our tragic Sesto, Philippe Jaroussky, was pitch-perfect. His voice is bright, warm, and light, gleaming above the orchestra. Nathalie Stutzmann (Cornelia) was a fine foil, her voice seemed bottomless.
In the title role, Andreas Scholl, started off quietly, and was overwhelmed by the orchestra at more than one point. His voice warmed up after the night wore on, and the second half went more smoothly than the first. Scholl did crack on one note near the end of "Dall'ondoso periglio...Aure, deh, per pietà," though he sang the rest sublimely. Cecilia Bartoli sang with beauty, she was coy when pretending to be Lidia, and imperious as Cleopatra. There were a few times when Bartoli had too much vibrato, and this wobbling had an unpleasant quality to it. However, overall the singers were wonderful.
Les Arts Florissants had a few mishaps. William Christie did keep the musicians together and his tempi seemed appropriate. In general the playing was clear and fine. However, the concertmaster broke her E string in Act I, and it took a long time for everything to get back in place. It was interesting to watch how she traded her violin with her stand mate, someone from behind passed up a good E string, and the stand mate restrung the concertmaster's violin, trying to get it in tune without disrupting the music. Unfortunately, some of the violin solos were out of tune and squeaky, though this is understandable, given the circumstances. The horn soloist also had some intonation issues, she hit a score of sour notes in "Va tacito e nascosto."
* Tattling *
The audience was quiet, though the men behind me in the second balcony did talk during the first chorus, were hushed, and snorted derisively at the suggestion that they should be silent. Nonetheless, they did not speak again during the music. The clapping was vehement, and although we were asked to not applaud after each number, somehow our enthusiasm got the better of us. It was a shame that some of us could not wait until after the orchestra stopped playing to cheer and clap.