Danielle de Niese stepped into the Metropolitan Opera's new staging of Handel's "Giulio Cesare" on a few hours' notice as if she knew every detail of the production.
That's because the soprano sang the role of Cleopatra when the David McVicar production premiered at England's Glyndebourne Festival in 2005 and performed it again when the staging traveled to the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2007.
Natalie Dessay sang the role when the staging arrived at the Met last Thursday night, but was unable to go on Tuesday because of illness. Met general manager Peter Gelb said in an announcement from the stage that de Niese was in the New York area and planned to watch the performance from his box, and that he called her Tuesday morning and asked her to sing instead.
McVicar's Bollywood-inspired staging includes highly choreographed dancing for Cleopatra, including "Da Tempste" in jodhpurs and "Tu la mia stella sei (Oh star of my desire)" in a flapper dress with an umbrella. De Niese hoofed her way through as if she had been practicing for weeks.