For a while I’ve been having a clandestine affair with Handel. Hubby out, kid at school and I’m tripping on Julius Caesar with Janet Baker from 1984. I bought the DVD not realizing this is all sung in English, but now I am glad, since I can enjoy this piece in two ways – weeping with the divine sound of Janet’s arias and rolling on the floor with laughter listening to recitatives. One goes like this: “So I cut off this lady’s husband’s head to win her love. Strange, but she didn’t like it. So I fought with the king who gave me the order, but lost. But I have a whole army tucked away somewhere. So I can still win. Too bad, I’m dying. You guys tell her I’m sorry.”
Another cool thing with the baroque pieces is that guys can be played by women. Sort of reverse Monty Python, where guys do all these hilarious old ladies. And opposite of Shakespeare, where originally guys did all ladies, young and old. Some contemporary productions want to bring in some balance and try to cast these operas as God intended, males doing men, females – women. But then it becomes too serious, and with the plots being silly as they are, this can’t be!
One of my most memorable operas was a drag Don Giovanni, aka “Donna Giovanni”, by Jesusa Rodriguez. The troupe was called Companias Divas, from Mexico, and it had five women and two men. It was done with a piano. They were not even trained opera singers, and some music critic almost had a heart attack reviewing the show. But it was great theatre and proved (to me at least, at tender age of 20-something, in Edinburgh), that ANYONE can do opera. Just transpose an octave lower, get some costume… or no costume… tell the story.
Gosh, aren’t I slow reviewing shows from the 80s… but better late than never!