Though born in Germany and active for a while in Italy, George Frideric Handel made his greatest mark in England, where he received a state funeral at Westminster Abbey, if you please. Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Julius Caesar in Egypt) is among his finest scores from the period when all London was aflame for Italian opera—the phenomenon Dr. Samuel Johnson famously snubbed as “an exotic and irrational entertainment.” How fitting then that the Theater an der Wien, perfectly scaled for Handel, should import a British conductor (Ivor Bolton) and a British director (Keith Warner) for this new production. The blue-ribbon cast is as cosmopolitan as you could wish. The commanding American countertenor Bejun Mehta assumes the role of Caesar, putty in the hands of Cleopatra, the British soprano Louise Alder. The French countertenor Christophe Dumaux appears as Tolomeo, Cleopatra’s psycho brother, who has Caesar’s great rival Pompey decapitated in a bid for Caesar’s support (bad move). Patricia Bardon (an Irish mezzo) and Jake Arditti (a British countertenor) swirl through the action as Cornelia and Sesto, Pompey’s wife and son, bent on revenge. —M.G.
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