Emmanuelle Haïm
Text: Jasmijn van Wijnen | Photo: Emmanuelle Haïm

‘Each new reading of the score offers fresh insights’

21 March 2022

Emmanuelle Haïm will conduct the new production of Giulio Cesare.

 

It may be conductor Emmanuelle Haïm’s Dutch National opera debut, but her familiarity with Handel’s Giulio Cesare means it feels like coming home whenever she conducts this work. For this production, she will be conducting her own Baroque ensemble, Le Concert d’Astrée. They have been performing together for some twenty years now and are highly attuned to each other. Together, they will breathe new life into Handel’s score.

Haïm is passionate about Baroque and early music – her speciality. Her piano lessons as a child focused quite a bit on the Baroque repertoire, and in particular Bach, which cultivated her appreciation for this type of music. She ended up falling in love with this genre and with one of its key instruments: the harpsichord. For this production, Haïm will be taking on the dual role of conductor and harpsichordist, which she loves, as in her own words: “it ensures I am deeply connected to the music, the musicians and the singers the entire time.”

Haïm tells us she always feels excitement and anticipation for a new production of Giulio Cesare, despite having performed and conducted this work countless times. She explains: “It’s one of Handel’s masterpieces, and each time I delve into the score, I gain fresh insights.” This approach is crucial for a work such as Giulio Cesare, as the conductor has to meticulously customise the work to the voices of the singers performing it. “Handel did not compose ornamentation for the singers’ arias, rather he wanted the embellishments to be painstakingly tailored to each individual singer, based on vocal accuracy and stylistic and dramatic considerations. This production of Giulio Cesare features a cast of incredible Baroque interpreters, acclaimed for their vocal and acting abilities alike, so I’m very much looking forward to working with them!”

Haïm continues: “Handel’s score for Giulio Cesare is incredibly varied: in his rich orchestration, he employs great finesse to convey the drama of the work. Just think of the subtle tonal colours of the flute in Cornelia’s lament, the royal sound of the horns in the coronation sinfonia and the virtuosity displayed by the bowed string instruments to underline Cesare’s anger on the one hand and Cleopatra’s joy on the other. Each aria comes at exactly the right moment – heightening the dramatic impact and perfectly illustrating the development of the characters. Conducting Handel means being driven by the dramatic cues in his work.”

Director Calixto Bieito will be working with Haïm to ensure the dramatic potential within Giulio Cesare is transmitted to the stage as convincingly as possible: “I am a great admirer of Calixto Bieito’s work and I am really looking forward to working with him on this new production. Each time I work on this piece with a different director, I am compelled to question it from a different perspective. A fundamental question for every staging is how a work can speak to audiences today. There is no doubt in my mind that Calixto will offer a reading that challenges all of us.”

 

Emmanuelle Haïm

Emmanuelle Haïm is highly regarded as a performer and advocate of the Baroque repertoire, both on the harpsichord and as a conductor. In 2000, she founded Le Concert d’As- trée, which quickly gained an international reputation as a specialised Baroque ensemble.