Soprano Natalie Dessay, conductor Emanuelle Haïm and composer George Frideric Handel make an established and admired team. Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare is a new role for Dessay at the Paris Opéra in early 2011, and it is in the arias from this work that the Egyptian queen shows her proverbial “infinite variety.”
The many facets of the Egyptian queen – captured by Shakespeare in the phrase “infinite variety” – are depicted in a sequence of contrasting arias, both lyrical and brilliant, that make the character a superb showcase for soprano Dessay’s talents as a singing actress.
Conducting the impressive cast and the period-instrument orchestra, Le Concert d’Astrée, is Emmanuelle Haïm. Haïm first collaborated with Dessay in the late 1990s when both artists were involved in a Paris production of Handel’s Alcina – Haïm as répétiteur for William Christie and Dessay in the sparkling role of Morgana. Since then, the two have developed a close working relationship which has produced a number of Virgin Classics recordings, including several works by Handel.
Dessay describes Haïm as the metteur en scène – the stage director – for her voice, while Haïm describes Dessay’s voice as “an exceptional instrument which can take on a thousand forms… Its virtuosity and flexibility make you forget all the difficulties presented by the music.” Haïm goes on to say that “Handel is the composer for the voice. He demands special qualities that Natalie possesses: an ability to create colors, to embody words in song and to let the imagination speak.”