* Notes *
David McVicar's production of Giulio Cesare (Act III pictured left, photograph by Marty Sohl) had a fourth performance at the Metropolitan Opera last night. Having attended no less than six performances of the Met's previous production, it was nice to see that McVicar's offering is much less staid. The shifts in costumes must have been confusing for those not familiar with the music, especially if one was seated far from the stage. Cleopatra, for instance, had everything from a long braid to a bob. The set, designed by Robert Jones, is both quite simple, in that it is transformed using sumptuous cloths, and elaborate, given the mechanized seascape used as a background. Andrew George's campy choreography is a delight. There were many dance moves that I will be practicing at home to Händel's music for hours to come. The more serious scenes did not come off as nicely, Cornelia's blood lust in Act III was alarming, and hearing audience members laugh at this even more so.
Maestro Harry Bicket kept the orchestra in line, neat and square. Having the violin soloist on stage for Act II's "Se in fiorito ameno prato" was charming. One of the horns in the finale did not play particularly well, but the horn soloist made very few errors during "Va tacito e nascosto." The chorus, relegated to the pit, sang well as usual. Guido Loconsolo (Achilla) sounded gritty. Christophe Dumaux (Tolomeo) continues to improve as a singer, he is an excellent villain. His voice tends toward pretty and girlish, but he was able to convey the cruelty of his character. Alice Coote's voice contrasted perfectly with Patricia Bardon's, though both are mezzo-sopranos. Coote gasped slightly as Sesto, but was sweet and light, yet still had good volume. Bardon sang a rich, deep, and tragic Cornelia. The gravity of her role is a bit at odds with the production.
Natalie Dessay seemed to be giving the role of Cleopatra her all. She is fully committed to all her movements, and she is a pleasure to watch. She is vocally less consistent, there is an undercurrent of frog-like ugliness to her sound. Her high tessitura can glitter without any harshness, but there were times when her voice seemed to disappear. One of her notes in "V'adoro pupille" was rather strange and out of place. However, her "Piangerò la sorte mia" was lovely. David Daniels was perfectly fine as Giulio Cesare, his singing is robust, though he does have a lot of vibrato. There is a certain smoothness to the transitions between different parts of his voice.
* Tattling *
There were some problems with the white curtains during "Tu la mia stella sei."
In Family Circle there were many watch alarms at each hour and people chatted during the music.