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Set in the basement of a museum where the statues come to life, this Giulio Cesare is a real curate’s egg. The good parts are Lawrence Zazzo’s imperious Cesare and Isabel Leonard’s ardent Sesto, both beautifully sung and always faithful to Handel’s sublime music; the bad include Natalie Dessay’s flippant, simpering Cleopatra, Varduhi Abrahamyan’s underpowered Cornelia and, alas, Laurent Pelly’s direction. He’s from the misguided school that believes arias need visual ‘enhancement’. A few effective touches are offset by such risible notions as having Cesare sing ‘Va tacito’ seated in a glass case; and while Dessay’s later, tragic Cleopatra is a more credible figure — ‘Se pietà’ is her one great moment — her vocal embellishments are often showy and wayward, diffusing the music’s emotional power.

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing