Giulio Cesare, an opera populated with manipulative characters that only interact with each other when shared interests are at stake, is a receptive vessel for a scornful indictment of imperialism and the dubious alliances it forges. With recourse to the obvious present-day target it is perhaps also a concept already fully mined by Peter Sellars, who in the late 1980s presented Caesar as a high-handed U.S. president out to further American interests in the Middle East, and revisited themes of Western moral hypocrisy in his 1996 Glyndebourne staging of Theodora. This Salzburg production, first seen at the Whitsun festival in May, has been criticized for unimaginatively retreading that ground and is in many ways a weak imitation, down to its kitsch-infused aesthetic and the silly dance moves of its flak-jacketed henchmen. What isn’t derived from Sellars, mainly the work’s baroque theatricality, becomes the lowest farce: when it is time for the colossal irony of Cleopatra clothing herself as Virtue on Mount Parnassus in order to seduce Caesar, Cecilia Bartoli mounts an atomic bomb and like Major Kong in Dr. Strangelove, rides her phallic weapon home in both senses of the word.
More here. Nothing to add to this one; if you want to watch the full production Intermezzo has embedded Youtube of the May Arte broadcast which I imagine won’t linger around for too long.
Image credit: Hans Jörg Michel