Here's a big thank you to jhar26, without whom I wouldn't have been led to this:
It arrived this morning. I've only had time to watch the first act, but, but ... what I saw and heard was stupendous. Sarah Connolly as Caesar is astonishing, but Danielle de Niese as Cleopatra is probably the most extraordinary operatic phenomenon I've ever seen and heard. The sheer eroticism of her performance - not just the singing, but the dancing too - is truly compelling; and just generally, the choreography of this production - the way in which the characters dispose themselves and move around the stage - is so intriguing that it's possible to miss major bits of plot just by being absorbed in the side issues. I can see this is a performance to go back to again and again, if only to keep picking up on details that have been missed on previous watchings.
It took me about 15 minutes to get used to the idea of seeing Romans in C19th costume, but my uneasiness changed to delight as I realised how this opened up the expressive capabilities of the production. Cleopatra's performance covers all sorts of ground, stretching from Egyptian schemer, to Victorian lady-on-the-make, to twentieth century vamp, and she makes all sorts of little references and gestures that throw forwards to the present, in a way that becomes possible only because of the ambiguities of the temporal setting.
And then there's the music. I'm relatively new to Handel opera, and completely new to this one in particular - but my goodness, what an introduction. And two more discs to go!!
Gaston - I hope you read this. Feel free to polish your Talk Classical Helper's badge. You've done me a brilliant good turn, here.