Giulio Cesare in Egitto - Haus für Mozart, 25 August 2012 (Salzburg Festival)
This Leiser and Caurier production formed the centrepiece of Cecilia Bartoli's Salzburg Whitsun Festival, a venture that proved such a hit with audiences and critics alike that we may not have to wait long until la Ceci is offered the Big Festival job as well.
I was keener than some of the critics were for the gleeful vulgarity of Leiser and Caurier's entrail-stuffed statue, flying rocket and giant plastic crocodiles. Gasp-inducing special effects featured in Handel's time too, and they enhance the storytelling, so why not? The narrow stage of the Haus für Mozart was extended backwards and forwards (taking up half of the orchestra pit) to squeeze in a full sized car, a tank and even a mini-seraglio, meaning there were no delays for scene changes.
Strapped into towering thigh boots and a succession of elaborate corsetry, Bartoli's Cleopatra was more sassy than seductive, shoving Andreas Scholl's rather vicarish Cesare wherever she wanted him. Scholl was on much better form than he had been at Whitsun (check out the videos below) and with a fabulous cast including Philippe Jaroussky, Christophe Dumaux and Anne Sofie von Otter there could be no complaints about the singing. Giovanni Antonini and Il Giardino Armonico provided the music - like the directors they weren't afraid of bold colours or a bit of irreverent fun.
Production photos here.
If you've got four hours to spare, here's a video of the whole show (as broadcast in May by Arte):