Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Review: Handel's Julius Caesar in Egypt - 9 Sep 2023

Our audience member Daniel Emlyn-Jones from the UK is so kind to pen down his thoughts about Julius Caesar in Egypt this past Saturday. Here is his review of the show:

Review of ‘Julius Caesar in Egypt’ by Handel, presented by The Mad Scene

Goodman Arts Centre Black Box, Singapore, 9th and 10th September 2023

By Daniel Emlyn-Jones

This slick presentation by The Mad Scene of Handel’s famous opera made for a very satisfying evening of music. The Black Box in the Goodman Arts Centre is a roughly rectangular performance space, which provided a pleasant intimacy between performers and audience. The three-dimensional potential of the space was fully realised, and placement of a screen at the back with surtitles, capably operated by Lucas Wan, was an excellent choice. So often at the opera I find myself having to constantly turn my head this way and that to glance at surtitles, so this made for a welcome relief. 

The backing projection slides of ancient Egypt, conceived by Steven Ang, also added to the atmosphere. The opera was very well cast. Tatiana Konovalova’s luminous and satisfying champagne voice suited the great queen very well, and I found myself wanting to hear this voice in a larger acoustic (book the Esplanade Theatre next time please 😊). Her costume and makeup, brilliantly conceived by Francis Wong, coupled with some wonderful acting and graceful choreography complemented the singing beautifully. 

Steven Ang, playing Julius Ceasar, had great stage presence, and his dark baritone, which negotiated the demanding role with considerable ability, contrasted nicely with Tatiana. Voice appreciation is such a subjective business, and I often find myself longing for more chiaroscuro balance in the darker male voices (Jonas Kaufmann included!), but all in all these lead roles convinced. Francis Wong played Ptolemy with a deliciously camp delinquency and charismatic singing which I greatly enjoyed and Hugo Van Bever’s rakish portrayal of Achillas was equally effective, with some wonderfully humorous touches, such as when he delivers the line: ‘think about it’ to poor Cornelia! Cornelia (played by Chieko Trevatt) and Sesto (Ashley Chua), both sang exquisitely, and their duet before the intermission was so heartrendingly beautiful, I had to find my way to the restrooms while still crying! 

The performance was expertly devised by artistic director Steven Ang and resident director Hawk Liu. Having the singing in Italian and the dialogue in English was very effective, and the English dialogue, written by Hawk Liu, succeeded in delivering the story with crystal clarity. Pianist Francesca Lee accompanied the opera flawlessly. Shana Yap did sterling work with the lighting, which delivered at key moments but never became intrusive. Last but not least, Denise Liu gave a very friendly welcome front of house and was very tolerant when I got all my QR Codes mixed up!

This production by The Mad Scene shows what can be achieved when people who are passionate about opera come together with a shared vision. Thank you so much for sharing your art with us!  

Thank you Daniel for the really kind review! Please follow Steven Ang on Instagram

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