Dramma per Musica in three acts (Opera sung in Italian)
Giulio Cesare, the cult-production from Munich, from the Sir Peter Jonas era
A love such as that between Cesar and Cleopatra was never so much on a knife’s edge. Literally. When Cleopatra was just about to reveal all at the end of the second act, the murderers were already on the move. Having been warned early, Cesar manages to escape, Cleopatra remains behind, in fear for the great Roman. In the end, her plans for power bear fruit, and she becomes queen of the desert state of Egypt.
Giulio Cesare, Handel’s most elaborate opera, written in 1724, marked in 1994 the beginning, of a renaissance of performances of Handel’s music in Munich. The Bavarian State Opera’s manager Sir Peter Jonas caused a sensation with the spectacular première. Well over 100 sold-out performances were given between 1994 and 2006. Scenically, the comic-ironic direction by Richard Jones, with its multi coloured loud-and-trendy look, was quite a jolt for the Munich audience; and one which heralded the completely new aesthetics of the “Jonas era.” But on a musical level too, the Bavarian State Orchestra under Ivor Bolton’s direction, played in a style, with highly plastic and slender phrasing achieved through the use of non-vibrato, which was outrageously new.
This new style was to remain a benchmark for more than a decade - the Bavarian State Opera and State Orchestra would find themselves in the centre of the international baroque opera scene, stealing the laurels from the British opera houses, which had until then been leaders in this field. Ann Murray, Chris Robson, Axel Köhler and many other protagonists were to remain faithful members of this production over all these years, and formed the backbone of the casts of many baroque operas which followed during this era.
In 2002 FARAO classics recorded a row of five performances, using what then state-of-the-art technology, and 10 years later, these recordings have been processed to produce a vivid documentation of this highlight of opera.
FARAO classics would like to dedicate this recording of the beginning, and what was also the highlight of an entire era. This to its initiator, the former Intendant of the Bavarian State Opera, Sir Peter Jonas (†).
Press commentary on the 2002 season of performances:
... most of all, Gritton's performance of Cleopatra, with the coloratura in the second and third acts, therein lies the whole world of what opera, with its dramatically compact assertion of life, is capable of providing...
Exaltation in opera
… top-notch cast… Susan Gritton, with her charisma a highly sensual Cleopatra - true eroticism combined with irresistible charm. Even more worthy of note was her voice, which with a power beaming with youth, beguiling timbre, and breathtaking technique set a new benchmark for this role. …
Ivor Bolton, the Nationaltheater’s God of Handel. Simply uplifting… Who says four hours of baroque opera is long? It’s too short - much too short!
Richard Jones’s cult production heralded in the Munich baroque boom, and if nothing deceives us, remains the most intelligent, significant and striking Handel production at the Nationaltheater. … Terrific ovations at the end, as though the audience was trying to take leave of this successful production with the roar of thunder. But even eight years after the première, this was to be much too soon.