Glyndebourne Giulio Cesare

The recent production at Glyndebourne of the Bollywood production by David McVicar is a startling contrast to the simplicity and seriousness of Giulio Cesare, the Handel opera that is being staged by Tim Albery. The set of the production is dominated by a single item and this is designed to represent how Egypt was taken over by the military.

This opera was composed by Handel in 1724 and is a great production that tells the story of the madness of war and the ignorance of the two cultures that are fighting each other. The characters are interesting and Tolomeo, who is played by James Laing,  is a sociopath who has been dressed in an interesting blue suit. His character is quite the opposite of Cesare, who is played by Pamela Helen Stephen.

The characters are well developed and the story is very exciting, the costumes are also well put together and very modern. There are many moments in this opera which are very nicely done and the storytelling and the character development is obviously at a very high level. Unfortunately, the opera is less musically developed and this shows through during the production.

The opera has managed to adapt itself well to the baroque style and the oboes and bassoons are particularly good. Unfortunately, the conductor, Robert Howarth, conducts the opera in a more jumpy way then you might feel is necessary. This opera should be smooth and flowing not suffering a case of the hiccups and unfortunately it is the latter.

Stephen’s voice certainly has an amount of gravity but in some of the songs the voice is unfortunately underpowered, for example in Va tacito. Laing’s voice is more reliable throughout the entire opera and the agile singing and light voice make for some excellent music.