Giulio Cesare in Egitto was a story about the Roman conquest in Egypt. Cleopatra’s brother Ptolemy, served the Roman’s with the severed head of Pomey on a plate. This enraged Caesar, causing a war between the Romans and the Egyptians. Meanwhile the widowed Cornelia and her son Sextus, morn in grief and both seek vengeance on the murder of Pompey. Cleopatra disguises herself as one of her servants and attempts to seduce Caesar in order to gain control. Both Cleopatra and Caesar end up falling for each before Caesar has to go out to war. Meanwhile, Cornelia and Sextus pursue their mission to avenge Pompey’s death. On their mission, Cornelia is faced with advances from Curtus and Ptolemy which she refuses, as she pursues vengeance on her late husband’s death.
The original setting of the story is in Egypt during the rule of Cleopatra VII and her younger brother Ptolemy Philadelphus during the late 69 B.C. This is expressed through the Costumes, and the dance choreographies that was used in this opera between the Egyptian characters. While the Roman characters had simpler dance numbers and costumes, the Egyptian characters had more Middle Eastern inspired costumes similar to that of which can be found in movies such as “The Mummy”. The dance numbers of the Egyptian characters contained the stereotypical hand gestures that one would make when the word Egyptian would come to one’s mind.
Personally, I did not find much virtuosity within this particular opera. Most of the singer’s vocal ranges were all with in the higher range, with only one singer that sang within the bass range which took away from the suspenseful virtuoso of the whole act. There was one scene with Cleopatra’s solo aria after the 3rd scene that I thought demonstrated her character and role very well. It even had a comical aspect of it where she drops her cigarette into Pompey’s ashes. Through the rather flamboyant dance, attitude and tone of voice, the audience can get a clear understanding of what Cleopatra’s original ambitions are when she disguises herself and goes to Pompey’s memorial service.
Sesto’s aria “L’angue offeso,” is different from a strophic progression because Sesto’s da capo aria’s was used in this opera to exaggerate and embrace his family’s sorrow and deep grief as well as their hardship when they are captured by the Egyptians on their journey to seek to avenge Pompey’s murder. The strophic progression however, was used within a less emotionally engaged scene of the opera.
The fact that the character Sesto was a soprano and was played by a woman highlighted the concept of Breeches roles because even though the idea of a woman playing the role of a younger boy, or man is very common not only in opera but in cartoon voices, as well. The only contradiction is that despite it being common for women to fit the role of this character due to their vocal tone and range, it is simply not a popular concept within the popular media. The fact that this is used in this performance, and is successfully preformed helps to promote a balance between the popularity of drag roles and breeches roles.
The camera provided the best view option for this performance which was very clear and visible. There is also the possibility of the noise cancellation that the camera may have been equipped with. Therefor not only is the view of the performance very clear and of full view of the entire stage, but there also the lack of hearing mild coughing and sneezing, or any other possible noises that one may encounter at the theater.
I did not feel like I was watching a live performance mainly because of the lack of the acoustics and that unique sound that is produced and heard only during live music performances. I did however did become intrigued by how the characters were portrayed within this particular performance, unlike in the blockbuster interpretations of this story I found that this theatrical performance better projected the characters in-depth personalities and personal attributes how the libretti interpreted them.
Hicks, Anthony. http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/subscriber/article/grove/music/O004424. 03 06 2013.
Urigoiti-Irizabalbarrena·, Unai. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orfVtWfHs2Q. 05 10 2011. La ópera Giulio Cesare de Georg Friedrich Händel . 04 06 2013.