Handel’s music is overwhelmingly beautiful. The highly structured and intricate nature of the notes sweep you away to a musical paradise where great stories are re-told and consequently re-born.
Julius Caesar, powerfully executed by the Victorian Opera at Melbourne’s Recital Centre and under the direction of Steven Heathcote and Musical Conductor Richard Gill offers insight into political divides and imperialistic manoeuvrings, stories of love and lust and ultimately vengeance and retribution.
The decision to incorporate dance and movement into the opera (a suggestion by Gill) proved to be an excellent choice that allowed Heathcote’s ballet background to fully complement the aural aesthetics of Orchestra Victoria and add a new dynamic to the work that re-engaged Handel’s music through more than just vocals.
Although incredibly talented and masterful in their operatic technique Gulio Cesare (David Hansen) and Cleopatra (Tiffany Speight) simply didn’t have the necessary charisma and chemistry necessary for the roles. In fact thwarted Achilla (Steven Gallop) and young Sesto (Jessica Aszodi) both had far better stage presence with their voices reverberating with the undulating pulses of passion, hope and sacrifice. Nireno (Dimity Shepherd) as Cleopatra’s confidant was also an engaging performer combining both strong voice and a high level of performativity throughout the work.
Steven Heathcote’s decision to avoid locating the work in any particular era was appropriate for this particular rendition that focuses on an exploration of personal narrative rather than historical developments.
In the backdrop the Hall’s unique aesthetics were successfully incorporated into the show while the costumes (designed by Alexis George) and other set design pieces (created by Stephen Curtis) were fitting with more neutral colours and stark shapes that complemented the overall personal trajectory of Caesar’s journey.
Ultimately however it was the powerful vocals and superb music that won the day and the soaring notes of Handel’s score within the walls of Melbourne’s Recital centre will be remembered, loud and clear.