Second part of Handel Giulio Cesare at Hackney Empire. Wait? Second part? Yes, because English Touring Opera took the risky decision of splitting the into two separated parts. And, from what I saw (2nd part), it worked pretty well. A quick surtitles recap during the sinfonia puts us in context to start right away in the middle of original Act II. Surtitles (displayed on two side LCD panels) were not a direct translation of the sung text: sometimes they simplified the dialogs to make them more understandable.

The action was set in Handel times confronting catholic France against protestant Britain as clearly evidenced by the costumes. Scenery was simple but functional and allowed singers to create the drama though their acting.

ETO made the wise decision of using a period instrument orchestra for this production: The Old Street Band. They sounded incredible idiomatic with high class strings, beautiful winds and rich continuo. They used vivid tempi and agile dynamics, without being to aggressive. The ornaments for the da capo arias showed how much good work have been done: they were incredible imaginative and matching each character physique.

Christopher Ainslie was a very good Cesare, dealing perfectly with all the pyrotechnics in his arias. Soraya Mafi was AMAZING as Cleopatra. Both did one of the best love duets I have seeing in the last years. Sublime singing and acting.

After such a good night of opera I am excited about tonight performance of Dardanus and I’m already booking for ETO 2018 spring season