While not the most ideal production of Julius Caesar- there are some cuts of arias and within them also- there are many things to love about this production from English National Opera. The best production is for me the Glyndebourne production directed by David McVicar, while the Andreas Scholl production is very good and Peter Sellars' manages to be both impressive and frustrating. For authenticity and quality of how it is performed, this is very high up. The sets and costumes are very handsomely rendered- though the grainy picture quality doesn't it enough justice I find- and the staging intelligent. The production is also outstanding musically. The orchestral playing has the beautiful playing and stylistic touches needed for Handel, yet also brings out the power and nuances of the score as well. The conducting from Charles Mackerras shows a conductor who knows exactly what he wants and also one who is experienced in performing Handel's music. Janet Baker is perhaps rather matronly in stature, but she still sings elegantly and cuts a dignified presence. James Bowman suffers from most of cuts, but still brings out his character's lasciviousness brilliantly and his countertenor is flexible and with a commanding ping. Della Jones is her usual vibrant self in a very passionate interpretation, and Sarah Walker is a very intense and thrilling Cornelia. I found that John Tomlinson and particularly Valerie Masterson stood out. You do wonder after hearing him here why Tomlinson didn't do more Handel roles, as he is humorous and vocally resonant as Achillas, while Masterson's Cleopatra benefits from amazingly precise, often dazzling, singing and a sensual and above all superb understanding of the character. In conclusion, an excellent production if not the most ideal for anybody picky about cuts and such. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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