One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider
  • Brahms Symphony 4 Dvorak Symphony 9
  • Peter Aronsky (piano) Les Délices du Piano
  • IL Carnevale di Venezia Clarinet with orchestra
  • Sinfonie Concertanti
  • IL Carnevale di Venezia Clarinet with orchestra
  • Peter Aronsky (piano) Les Délices du Piano

Shostakovich 4, 11 Nelsons
Transparent Granite!

Nothing but Praise

BrucKner 4 Nelsons
the finest of recent years.

superb BD-A sound

This is a wonderful set

Telemann continues to amaze

A superb disc

Performances to cherish

An extraordinary disc.

rush out and buy this

I favour above all the others

Frank Martin - Exemplary accounts

Asrael Symphony
A major addition

Another Bacewicz winner

match any I’ve heard

An outstanding centenary collection

personable, tuneful, approachable

a very fine Brahms symphony cycle.

music that will be new to most people

telling, tough, thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded

hitherto unrecorded Latvian music


REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Giulio Cesare, HWV 17 (1724)
Cecilia Bartoli (Cleopatra), Andreas Scholl (Cesare), Philippe Jaroussky (Sesto), Anne Sofie von Otter (Cornelia), Christophe Dumaux (Tolomeo), Ruben Drole (Achilla), Jochen Kowalski (Nirena), Peter Kálmán (Curio)
Il Giardino Armonico / Giovanni Antonini
Moshe Leiser, Patrice Caurier (directors)
rec. Haus für Mozart, Salzburg Whitsun Festival, May 2012
Menus – English: Picture Format – 16:9: Colour Mode: Region Code – 0 (worldwide): DVD Format – NTSC: Dolby Digital Stereo: DTS Digital 5.1 Surround: Subtitles – English, French, German: Duration – 249 minutes.
Sung in Italian; booklet, no libretto
DECCA DVD 074 3856 [249:00]

I am not sure if this is what sneering Americans like to call Eurotrash opera but it is certainly not genteel. The stage directors Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier set Handel’s Giulio Cesare amidst the burning tyres and oil rigs of some presumably Middle Eastern despotic landscape in which the usual scampering about takes place during the orchestral introduction; a lot of soldiers toting guns and a cowering populace recoiling in semi-darkness. There are camouflage and combat jackets a go-go, cornrow hair and tattoos, a sky-blue suit for Andreas Scholl, Philippe Jaroussky in long shorts, a limousine on stage, Cecilia Bartoli straddling a rocket, and a crocodile. If this makes you yearn for ENO, or for some more Arcadian setting, you may well not be alone. Nevertheless, the opera is bloody and some appreciation of its dark moments is warranted.

What emerges intact throughout the conceptual mess and muck of this bizarre production—it seems to have no true point of view other than incidental outrages—is the vocal strength of the top-of-the-range cast. Those few moments of real clarity and simplicity register all the more given that they are surrounded by a morass of ill-disciplined stage gestures. Andreas Scholl sings splendidly as Cesare but is asked to undertake too many stagey theatrics, some of which undermine the clarity of his performance. It is not his fault at all. Anne Sofie von Otter’s moving lament Priva son d’ogni conforto is that much more compelling because of her statuesque stillness amidst the theatrical carnage whilst, as Sesto, Jaroussky’s athleticism and laser-focused countertenor is another sizeable vocal asset: his Cara speme is excellent. Together their duet Son nata that ends Act I is one of the best elements of the whole production. Veteran countertenor Jochen Kowalski does one of his female turns, here as Nirena, but his voice is now frayed. Meanwhile Bartoli gives full rein to her Bartolisms in what is not one of the best-known arias, Tutto puň donna vezzosa but she brings to it immense zest and coloratura brilliance, with a dramatic array of fluidity and theatricality.

It is during V’adoro pupille that Bartoli erotically straddles the rocket, as per the booklet cover which shows her in a blonde wig, leather trousers and party top. Christophe Dumaux as the unpleasant Tolomeo engages in some pillow humping during Achilla’s aria Se a me non sei crudele—not a sight that will receive universal acclaim—nor will the subsequent scene where he masturbates to a porno mag. Clearly when it comes to characterisation in scenes like these, the directors prefer a bulldozer to a scalpel. It is best to remember instead, if one can, Bartoli’s brilliant Da tempeste il legno infranto with added vocalisms to annoy the purists. During the last scene Tolomeo comes back from the dead, the stage is dismantled and the singers gather around a piano, with champagne to drink. I am sure there is a point somewhere: all is allusion? Art is artifice? Do not take any of this too seriously? In which case, why subject your audience to a bruising encounter with a zero-concept operatic production?

Il Giardino Armonico under Giovanni Antonini naturally escape censure; they play with personality and conviction. Recitatives are well paced in the context of a chaotic production.
This is the kind of opera on disc you watch either eyes wide open in appalled amazement or eyes tight shut. In both cases, much of the singing saves the day – especially Otter and Jaroussky, with Bartoli and Scholl close behind.

Jonathan Woolf



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger