Magazine article Opera Canada

Seattle

Magazine article Opera Canada

Seattle

Article excerpt

Giulio Cesare in Egitto was only Seattle Opera's second foray into Handel opera but, like Xerxes a decade ago, was brazenly self-confident and highly entertaining. The curtain rose on opening night (Feb. 24) to opulent display: under Robin Guarino's lively direction, Donald Byrd's dazzlingly choreographed fight scenes, Paul Steinberg's sets--candy-colored pyramids, busy yellow hieroglyphics on a bright blue backdrop--and Constance Hoffman's period-influenced costumes were all reflected in the shiny black stage floor.

Too much visual distraction? Perhaps, but Giulio Cesare stands or falls on the merits of the singing. As Caesar, Ewa Podles came, sang and conquered Seattle. For all its size and power, the Polish contralto's voice has flabbergasting range and agility, although she fought gamely at times to bring her teeming cascades of notes in on time. And from cocky, masculine swagger to haughty, imperious gaze, she also relished the role's theatrical possibilities.

With long, black hair in a classic Cleopatra style, French-Canadian soprano Alexandra Deshorties could hardly have been better cast. Tall, lithe and regal, she shrewdly played up the contrast between her voice and Podles's and, if anything, received greater applause at curtain. …

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