Giulio Cesare and Dardanus review – ETO update Handel and make Rameau feel contemporary

By Tim Ashley for The Guardian (UK)

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Christopher Ainslie (Julius Caesar) and Kitty Whately (Sesto) in Giulio Cesare. Photo: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

Hackney Empire, London
English Touring Opera’s ambitious autumn programme features two baroque operas that both deal with sex and war and the private and the political.

English Touring Opera’s autumn season centres on two great baroque works, Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Rameau’s Dardanus. They’re poles apart in style: Rameau’s tragédie lyriquetense, declamatory and reined in – is almost antithetical to Handel’s expansive, bravura take on Roman history. Yet they’re also comparable in aim and subject; each deals with the relationship between sex and war, the private agendas that dictate political expediency and the phenomenon of love across enemy lines.

Giulio Cesare comes with a catch. Director James Conway has opted to stage the complete opera, but aware that its length – more than four hours uncut – can strain audiences’ attention spans, he has presented it in two parts, which you can see either on different nights, or as matinee and evening performances on the same day. Awkwardly, he has also decided to open Part Two with a repeat of the final scenes of Part One, some 45 minutes of music. The aim is presumably to allow us to refamiliarise ourselves with preceding events, but the overlap creates a lengthy hiatus precisely at a point where we want the narrative to press forward.

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Source: Opera News from the UK Guardian