April 21, 2006
The Met production of Händel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto opened at San Diego Opera last Saturday. This production was in San Francisco in 2002, so I was familiar with both the music and the staging. This was somewhat unfortunate, as it started off badly, Ewa Podleś, in the lead role, was ahead of the orchestra. The conductor, Kenneth Montgomery, attempted to catch up to Podleś, and it was just painful, they sounded rushed and confused. It was a disappointment, as Podleś has an incredible voice. She was also off during the aria "Va tacito e nascosto." The production would have benefited from a prompter. If there was one, I did not see this person, and it certainly did not sound like there was a souffleur.
Mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux played and sang the part of Sesto rather well, her aria that ends Act II was one of the best moments of the evening. Perhaps my poor impression of her in Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria was just because the production was so awful, because she sang well in L'Italiana in Algeri.
Countertenor Brian Asawa was fabulous as the villain, Tolomeo, acting and singing well. He seemed so unassuming when he replaced David Daniels in Saul, I was surprised to see how much he swaggered and so forth.
I was unimpressed by Lisa Saffer's Cleopatra, her voice is nice, if not somewhat bland, until she gets to her high range. When singing loudly at this range, she sounded out of control.
I hope that Florida Grand Opera's production of this opera, which comes to Seattle next year, is better. Alexandra Deshorties joins Podleś and Asawa, it should be interesting.