Haendel's most popular opera remains characteristic of the melodramatic style of his era, with an integration between love and politics, jealousy and heroism, revenge and appetite of glory. The music is Italian-inspired, with recitatives and arias that alternate harmoniously and enhance the dramatic impact. Areas of great beauty, off contemporary conventions, give the whole an admirable scenic and stylistic unit. McVicker, a highly original metteur en scène, transposed the action to the 1920s. Rome became the British Empire and so on. It's as divine a contemporary production of Handel as one can get. Wonderful staging, superb cast. This is the opera that conquered London in Handel's times (1724 to be precise) David McVicar's inventive production triumphed in Glyndebourne at its premiere in 2005. McVicar's witty, sexy, and tragic post-colonial framing of Handel's Caesar and Cleopatra tale incorporates elements of Baroque theater and 20th-century British imperialism to illuminate ideas of love, war, and empire building. The world's leading countertenor, David Daniels, sang the title role opposite Natalie Dessay as an irresistibly exotic Cleopatra. Do take note of: (i) the audacity of the choreography, with pop resonances reminiscent of current phenomenon (e.g. the Korean Psy); (ii) the costumes, which never compromise with traditional historical fidelity, and (iii) the sheer amount of glorious Baroque (almost Rococo) coloratura singing is most thrilling, inviting singers to improvise - which they do masterfully.
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