GIULIO CESERE, THE GREAT ITALIAN OPERA BY HANDEL
George Frederic Handel wrote and staged the Italian opera Giulio Cesare in Egitto, translated to Julius Ceasar in Egypt in 1724 for the Royal Academy of Music in London. German born Handel had settled in London in 1712 and quickly became a celebrated composer in the English royal court, by 1727 he had become a citizen of the UK.
The opera is often regarded as the finest example of Handel's Italian operas and was revived many times during his lifetime. The opera, like much of Handel's work fell out of fashion during the 19th century and was revived across Europe and North America in the early 20th century.
The historic meeting of Julius Ceasar and Cleopatra is the subject of this opera, which has remained the most popular of Handel's over the centuries. The role of Ceasar was originally written for a male castrati singer, who underwent the removal of their sexual organs before reaching puberty. This fine example of serious opera follows the paths of Cleopatra and Ceasar as they fall in love, negotiate and fight a war over Cleopatra's claim to be the queen of Egypt.
Ceasar's forces arrive on the banks of the Nile having defeated the army of Pompeo, his wife, Cornelia begs for the life of Pompeo from the victorious Ceasar. The head of Pompeo is then presented to Ceasar as a show of support and loyalty from Cleopatra's brother, Tolomeo. Ceasar is angered at the death of Pompeo, which also prompts Pompeo's son, Sesto to swear revenge on Tolomeo. Told of the unhappiness of Ceasar at his gift, Tolomeo turns his back on an alliance with Ceasar. Cleopatra disguises herself as Lidia and enters Ceasar's camp to ask for his support to her claim over Alexandria and Egypt.
Cleopatra, still disguised as Lidia seduces Ceasar and falls in love with him within the walls of her palace. At Tolomeo's palace the prince is rejected in his advances towards Cornelia, prompting her son Sesto to create a plan to kill Tomoleo. Ceasar returns to Cleopatra, but finds the palace stormed by his enemies forcing him to jump from a window to escape. Sesto is about to kill Tomoleo, but is stopped by Achilla bringing news of Ceasar's death.
Unhappy with Cornelia's latest refusal of marriage, Achilla decides to declare his loyalty to Cleopatra, but is stabbed by Tomoleo before he can do so. Sesto is handed control of the armies of Achilla, but hands them to the returned Ceasar who states he will rescue Cornelia and kill Tomoleo. Ceasar leads Achilla's army to victory and claims Alexandria for Cleopatra and himself, Sesto kills Tomoleo before he can rape Cornelia leading to a celebration of victory.
THE MAIN ROLES
Giulio Cesare, Ruler of Rome, Alto Castrato
Cleopatra, Egyptian Queen, Soprano
Tolomeo, Cleopatra's rival for the throne, Alto Castrato
Cornelia, Pompeo's Wife, Contralto
Sesto, Pompeo's Son, Soprano