Giulio Cesare, Opera North/Theatre Royal Newcastle 09 March

****

To start with the important things:  this time round, the view on the seats was that they were too narrow and too uncomfortable, the rake was wrong or the pitch or both.  A fortune had been spent to no effect.  I can’t say I can really offer an opinion–in my Newcastle days, I remember meeting a girl at a party who worked in the box office here, and someone with a job and a regular income was definitely on a different socio-economic planet.

After that introduction, we got a very good performance of Giulio Cesare, where the revolving Egyptian pyramid constrained by Roman concrete did duty for all kinds of things and the production was fresh and inventive.  Pamela Helen Stephenson was suitably mannish as Giulio Cesare in a battle-weary greatcoat while the countertenor James Laing was camply evil and perverted as Tolomeo.  Sarah Tynan was very lovely–also clearly a very good actress–as Cleopatra and sang very accurately.  She didn’t really suggest a woman who could dispose of her husband-brother and several other rival claimants to the throne without any bother at all, but that’s not in the piece either so not her fault. But perhaps the partt needs someone to wallow more lushly.

I thought the best singing (and performances) came from Kathryn Rudge as Sesto and Ann Taylor as Cornelia, both of whom were extremely affecting.  The orchestral playing (conductor Robert Howarth) was jolly good too.

Well done everybody!  Well done Opera North!

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