David McVicar’s production of George Frederic Handel’s “Giulio Cesare” makes its Metropolitan Opera debut tonight, the first of 10 showings between now and May 10. The opera, which focuses the relationship between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, stars countertenor David Daniels and coloratura soprano Natalie Dessay. The production is led by Harry Bicket and features choreography by Andrew George.
Handel’s opera premiered at the Kings Theatre in London in 1724 and tells the story of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra’s romance, from their first meeting to her crowning as the queen of Egypt, with all the trials and tribulations in between. A hit from the very beginning, the opera has gone on to become one of Handel’s most popular pieces. It first appeared at the Met in 1988 in a production by John Copley, and has been revived twice since, in 1999 and 2007.
McVicar’s production premiered at the Glyndebourne Festival in the UK in 2005. The opera was well-received by critics, including the New York Times’s Paul Griffiths, who wrote: “David McVicar’s brilliant production picks up on this. The springtime of the Roman empire becomes the full summer of the British, in an Egypt of shuttered interiors and servants in fezes; a rattling camp-headquarters typewriter adds to the continuo for one of the recitatives.” In addition to Daniels and Dessay, the rather sizeable production also features Alice Coote (as Sesto), Guido Loconsolo (Achilla), John Moore (Curio), Patricia Bardon (Cornelia), Christophe Dumaux (Tolomeo), and Rachid Ben Abdeslam (Nireno).
If you can’t make it to any of the 10 performances at the Met, the production will also be shown at movie theaters across the United States on April 27 as part of “The Met Live in HD” series.