* Notes *
A production of Giulio Cesare opened at Opéra de Lausanne last Friday. The opera was cut down, and the performance was only three hours long. Emilio Sagi's production was on the traditional side, the setting looked like a Baroque take on the Roman and Ancient Egyptian worlds. In that sense it was not unlike the Metropolitan Opera production that was in San Francisco and San Diego. The costumes, the work of Jesús Ruiz Moreno, were pretty, though the beading was a bit loud. The costumes of Cornelia and Sesto looked medieval, but the Egyptian costumes and the other Roman costumes were what one would expect, though all of the former wore white, and all of the latter black. Eduardo Bravo's lighting was at times too stark, rendering the singers unnaturally purple.
There were some silly aspects to the staging, notably the giant statue head used as the severed head of Pompeo and the fight scene between the Egyptians and Romans in Act III Scene 1. Several ropes were hanging from the ceiling and instead of attacking each other, the dancers batted at ropes under strange lighting. I must admit, I laughed a lot at this part and barely contained myself.
Yannis François and Florin-Cezar Ouatu acted and sang well as Curio and Nireno, respectively. Bass Riccardo Novaro was quite brutal as Achilla, he had fine volume, at least from the second row of the house. Christophe Dumaux is great as a buffoon, I remember him as Unulfo in the Met's Rodelinda. He was amusing as Tolomeo, and though his voice has a light prettiness, his control is imperfect. He was rather quiet in his falsetto and much too loud when notes fell into his actual range. On the other hand, Max Emanuel Cencic (Sesto) had both volume and brightness. He did, however, lack precision in diction and intonation. Charlotte Hellekant (Cornelia) looked far too young to be Cencic's mother, but was convincing in her beauty, as she is wooed by Curio, Achilla, and Tolomeo. Her diction was good, but her tone lacked richness. In contrast, Elena de la Merced could have been singing in Finnish, I could barely make out a word. She looked absolutely stunning as Cleopatra, but when she sang the word piangerò, it sounded like "kangigo." She sang "Piangerò la sorte mia" especially well, despite her diction. Generally her intonation was good, but her higher notes were terribly strained, both loud and harsh.
The highlight of the evening was definitely Andreas Scholl in the titular role. He was amazing, with beautiful control in volume and tone. He made some hilarious faces as Giulio Cesare, but is more convincing than David Daniels or Ewa Podleś. He was overwhelmed in one aria by the orchestra, and he also completely showed off holding the first note of "Aure, deh per pietà."
I was not much impressed by the orchestra, under the direction of Ottavio Dantone. The nadir was the horn solo in "Va tacito e nascosto" that had many sour notes, and just kept going badly.
* Tattling *
The audience distinguished itself by being one of the worst I've ever encountered. There were no cellular phones or watch alarms, but people could not stop speaking. Especially at the beginning, whenever there was no singing, people would immediately start conversing. The pair of women in Box A on the orchestra level were particularly rude. During the overture, they deliberated for several minutes on whether or not they should move to the center as the box was quite off to the right side of the house. They stomped to the middle during the music. Of course, the patrons who had those seats arrived during Act I and the two women had to stomp back to their box. After they settled down, the men in Row A Seats 26 and 28 felt the need to speak during "Dall' ondoso." Then a woman in Row C Seat 26 spoke at full volume during "Io fra l'onde."
The audience clapped with great gusto at the end, and there were about 10 curtain calls. I was glad to note that the Swiss have the same habit as I've noted among Bavarians and Hungarians of clapping all together.
There was a funny moment in the staging, at the beginning of Act II Scene 7, Nireno spells out Cleopatra in large blocks of Greek letters. The dancers wrap them up in cloth and take them away except for the "K." Tolomeo later comes by and is supposed to stab the block letter, but he must have missed, for everyone in the audience laughed.