Giulio Cesare at The Royal Theatre of Copenhagen
I need to shout with joy! Squee!
Giulio Cesare at the Royal Theatre last night (March 7 2005) was fantastic. Really, it’s just about the best performance I’ve ever seen. All the time I had this feeling that the opera couldn’t possibly have been better directed, nor could the music have been played better or the parts been better sung. Quite outstanding.
Andreas Scholl… *swoon*… I am lost for words and have to contribute to the general Hans Christian Andersen-nausea and quote the grand old writer: “The Lord bless you here on earth, you are an angel from his Kingdom.” Scholl’s incredible! He has such a beautiful voice and then he makes such good use of it. Talk about controlling and taming Nature! In the cool way that doesn’t involve an unpleasant operation. And then it’s just nice to see a really tall, broad man on stage, who looks like he knows what he’s doing and seems well-balanced. It was great that he was able to drool overtly over Cleopatra, without losing the least bit of his authority in the process. That’s the way to go, men of the world! He was convincing as a ruler of nations as well as the heart of Cleopatra the Über-woman.
This naturally leads me to the subject of Inger Dam-Jensen (Cleopatra). Oh, how I love her voice. And how well she acts! She was thoroughly gorgeous as the sexy, seductive Cleopatra, and she emphasized the fact that Cleopatra went through a personal development in the course of the story – from the rather silly girl we met at the beginning of the opera, who couldn’t really figure out how to hold her sceptre and who teased her brother, into the serene woman who was standing erect and dignified by Giulio Cesare’s side in the last scene. To me, one of the most moving scenes of the performance was the scene with the (insanely beautiful) “Se pieta di me non senti” when she picked up Cesare’s jacket from the floor, held it tight, and then tossed it across tge floor in despair. One really felt how the entire world had been changed in one moment for Cleopatra, and it was almost anger she felt as she tossed Giulio’s metonymical jacket – the wonderful and angry realization that she loved Giulio and that thus she had become vulnerable; possibly for the first time in her life.
Again: I don’t think there was one single weak link in the performance. Beautiful, noble Randi Stene (Cornelia) was, both with her acting and her voice a constant centre of the dolorously serious aspect of the opera, and as her son Sextus Tuva Semmingson carried conviction the same way as Elisabeth Jansson did as Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro last season (although, naturally, with more severity). And I will never stop admiring her voice which Michael Bo from newspaper Politiken with a very apposite term usually defines as “velvet-like”.
Christopher Robson was a wonderfully disgusting villain in the part of Tolomeo, and Palle Knudsen was really touching as the clumsy Achilla who just wanted to kiss and hug Cornelia but who was about to squeeze her to death instead. I am full of admiration for Michael Maniaci (Nireno) – he could really move about on stage! He seemed nicely mysterious, and I loved it that he was a kind of genie who provoked the progress of the story, rather than just a servant. And I just really, really like John Lundgren with his harmonious, full baritone, and I enjoyed his Curio, a part he acted out well, too. A competent military man, it would seem, but he managed to show us more sides of Curio: I was moved when he tried to comfort the distraught Cornelia (I am totally going to write a fan-fic in which Curio and Cornelia hook up!), and it was great fun to see him standing about, obvioulsy on the verge of dropping his beret in admiration of Cleopatra’s cleavage.
The duet between Andreas Scholl and the 1st violinist was definitely a musical highlight of the evening – incredibly beautiful – but I have to admit that this was the one part of the directing that I didn’t like. Meta-directing does work sometimes – I loved it when the contrastingly blue curtain emerged behind the dark red and presented a performance within the performance which was “only for pleasure” (the motto of The Royal Theatre is “Not only for pleasure”) – but I don’t think it went very well with the staging that they had pulled up a musician from the orchestra pit and had her interacting with one of the otherwise perfectly rounded characters on stage. Well, I guess I do have a little too much of a grudge against meta-art, but I think that it often – possibly unwittingly – may send the message that one shouldn’t take the characters on stage all that seriously anyway. … ‘Is it really necessary to point so much to one self as a media?’ I wonder. I mean, we’ve all bought our tickets and placed ourselves in the plush seats – we are well aware of the fact that we have stepped out of Reality and into a realm of illusion. Would be nice to be allowed to just stay there.
…But I’m getting nitpicky here, and I really did love the directing with its neat mix of lightness and gravity which was so wonderfully underlined by genius conductor/cembalist Lars Ulrik Mortensen and the ConcertoCopenhagen orchestra.
Hurrah for Giulio! Thanks to everyone involved for a celestial experience.
The cutest scene ever! Cleopatra seducing Giulio, leaving him completely enchanted. Aaaw!