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Giulio Cesare

Music by George Frideric Handel

Opera North

The Lowry, 1 March 2012

James Laing as Tolomeo.  Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

James Laing as Tolomeo. Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

No phallic symbolism of consequence evident in this production, not unless you count the odd pyramid.

Cleopatra does wield a sword late on, but her deadliest weapons are an A-line dress and a pair of silvery strap-on shoes.  She’s got a bit of a vintage vibe going on.  (That emphasis on Cleopatra’s nose?  It’s overblown.)  Anyway, their effect on Caesar is lethal; his heart soon bites the dust. 

Only opera gives you those epiphanic moments where sound and vision meld perfectly.  Where music and singing on the one hand, together with the costumes and sets, the acting and not forgetting either the drama itself, all come together to transport you to another place.  Within Giulio Cesare there were myriad moments like these.

Of the performances I especially liked Sarah Tynan’s Cleopatra, fell in love with her almost, while James Laing as Tolomeo made a fine villain or a Sadean hero, if you’d prefer.  The set itself was a star in this production, for with a twist and a turn the battlements of a palace were transformed into its interior chambers and even into a prison cell.  And the music sculptured the drama with something approaching perfection.

This is the second of two new productions by Opera North, both set in the Ancient World and both featuring ‘strong women’ (a tautological construct if ever there was one), tour dates are here.