Review: Opera North’s Giulio Cesare at The Lowry

Some years ago, I visited the site where Julius Caesar was said to meet his maker.

The Curia in the Theatre Of Pompey is not only a place of significant historical importance but much to my total and utter glee, a colony for feral cats. Cat lovers this is your Mecca, cat not-lovers probably give this a miss and spend more time in the Coliseum (actually cats live in there too – maybe go to Madrid instead).

Handel’s Giulio Cesare comes with the wonderful tagline…

Cleopatra would die for the throne. But she’d rather kill for it.

And so tells the story of Cleopatra and her brother Tolomeo, as they compete for absolute power over Egypt.

Credit: Alastair Muir

Julius Caesar has chased his enemy Pompey to Egypt where he falls into the murderous hands of Tolomeo.

As Pompey’s widow Cornelia plots with son Sesto to get their revenge, Tolomeo is seemingly more concerned by an ‘enemy’ closer to hand…

Credit: Alastair Muir

Well they do say you can choose your friends but you can’t choose…etc and so forth.

Whilst Cleopatra could be lauded as a symbol of a strong independent women, some may take issue with her tactics to secure her position – that is with feminine wiles and good old ‘female of the species’ straightforward seduction of Caesar.

Credit: Alastair Muir

Nobody’s coming out of this registering strong on the moral compass so, moving on…

Sung in Italian, Tim Albery’s production of Handel’s sweeping and passionate operatic tale is accompanied by a wonderful orchestra conducted by Christian Curnyn.

The set is simple, allowing for the marriage between the voices and the music to flourish and entertain without distraction.

Forgive me for perhaps lowering the cultural tone here but I couldn’t help but equate the spirited, competitive and sometimes downright troubling relationship between brother and sister, Tolomeo and Cleopatra, to that of, what for it, the ice-skating, scheming siblings in the very deep and seminal film…Blades of Glory. Even aesthetically.

DO forgive me – I mean this without any of the slapstick but with all of the heart, passion and downright devilment of both pairs.

It’s a pocket of time that is revisited, referenced and paid tribute to both in the history books and in popular culture repeatedly. But whilst time moves on, human passion, ambition and indeed ruthlessness remains.

And with a wonderfully talented cast and production (a statement which will come as no surprise to those who are familiar with the work of Opera North), Giulio Cesare delivers on this age-old story of tyranny and passion in spades.

Cast:

  • Giulio Cesare – Maria Sanner
  • Cleopatra – Lucie Chartin
  • Cornelia – Amy J Payne (special mention who stepped in for Catherine Hopper)
  • Sesto – Heather Lowe
  • Tolomeo – James Laing
  • Noreno – Paul-Antoine Bruno’s-Djian
  • Curio – Dean Robinson
  • Achilla- Darren Jeffery

Opera North continue at The Lowry this week with performances of La Boheme tonight (15 November) and The Greek Passion tomorrow (16 November) at The Lowry.

Have a thousand questions on Opera-going that you never dared ask? Find out more here at https://www.operanorth.co.uk/your-visit/new-to-opera/.

My reviews of previous Opera North productions can be found below:

Review: Aida at the Bridgewater Hall

Theatre review: The Magic Flute at The Lowry


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