Inside and Out: GIULIO CESARE in NYC and Chicago


April 22, 2013 – Lincoln Center / April 27, 2013 – Chicago
Harry Bicket; David Daniels, Natalie Dessay, Alice Coote, Patricia Bardon, Christophe Dumaux, Guido Loconsolo

A constantly renewing pleasure for Brent and me is the Met Opera production career of our daughter Alexandra, pictured above.  When we come to New York – as we did on April 22, with Brent as Visiting Professor of Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College – we come to the Met.  Ali sometimes joins us on the night of a scratch taping in “camera seats” that are blocked for public sale.  So there we were at Lincoln Center on a Monday night in plush red seats under the eye of Camera 6, for GIULIO CESARE.

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Inside the Met under the eye of Camera 6; Brent catches up on the April issue of Playbill

Over seven seasons of Live in HD, we’ve learned much from Ali about how a Met performance is brought to the world.  Just a few of the steps in the HD production process are:

  • a 3-5 camera lighting test at the final dress rehearsal which, together with a musical score, leads to
  • the creation of a moment-by-moment camera script for framing each shot, and an individual “shot sheet” for each of the 10-12 cameras which will be stationed throughout the house for the
  • practice or “scratch” taping that takes place during an actual performance in the week leading up to Saturday’s live show.

Mia Bongiovanni:
Met Assistant Manager, Media

Ali’s mentor is Mia Bongiovanni, supervising producer of Live in HD and the Met’s Assistant Manager in charge of Media.  Ms. Bongiovanni was brought to the Met in 2006 by general manager Peter Gelb, in large part to launch the HD theater transmissions, within her much larger role overseeing the Met’s expanding media initiatives including terrestrial and satellite radio broadcasts, audio and video streaming services and house-produced recordings and films.  As reported a couple of years ago by Zachary Woolfe in the New York Observer:  “Ms. Bongiovanni is in charge of making it all happen: digitizing the archives, producing the broadcasts and expanding the Met’s reach all over the world.”

Though we sometimes venture backstage, Monday night Brent and I were content to dine with our daughter on the Grand Tier, just below her office overlooking Lincoln Center Plaza, and then sit back and enjoy one of the best performances of the season.


At the Met: we’re delighted by a brilliant performance of GIULIO CESARE.

The prolific David McVicar has a take on 1st Century BC Egypt that is so wildly inventive it only connects through genius with his wrenching MARIA STUARDA earlier this year.  The counter-tenors are in excellent form; David Daniels, having sung Caesar all over the world, calls this production his favorite.  But what adjectives suffice for Natalie Dessay as Cleopatra?  In preparation for a trip to Egypt this month, I’ve been reading Stacy Schiff’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the Egyptian queen, and Natalie Dessay is she:  21 years old, regal and vulnerable, love-struck and exciting love in Caesar – but also singing and acting and dancing in over-the-top choreography which includes stowing her parasol and her cigarette holder in the urn holding the ashes of the murdered Pompey.  On Saturday, I was thrilled to see her do it all again in Chicago when Brent was addressing a new group of surgeons, while I was in the center of a packed HD house at AMC River East.

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Natalie Dessay triumphs as Cleopatra, Live in HD at Chicago’s AMC River East