The Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD returns to big screens around the world with Giulio Cesare by George Frideric Handel, hosted by Renée Fleming on April 27, 2013. Beginning at noon (ET) the opera has a running time of approximately 245 minutes, including two intermissions. Soprano Renée Fleming hosts the transmission and conducts backstage interviews with the stars.
(Update) Encore presentation at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington
Sunday, May 5 at 12pm
Metropolitan Opera “Live in HD”
In the Berkshires, screenings take place at the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington, the Beacon in Pittsfield, the Clark Art Museum in Williamstown, and the Movieplex 8 in North Adams. For information on other venues around the world, to to metopera.org/hdlive
David Daniels and Natalie Dessay star in David McVicar’s innovative production of Handel’s most popular opera in the final live transmission of the 2012-13 Live in HD season. The staging, a hit at the Glyndebourne Festival in 2005, comes to the Met for the first time with its clever blend of dramatic storytelling and witty touches, including extensive choreography by Andrew George. Baroque specialist Harry Bicket leads an extraordinary cast that also includes Alice Coote in the trouser role of the Roman youth Sesto, Guido Loconsolo as the scheming Egyptian general Achilla, John Moore as the Roman general Curio, and three stars of McVicar’s original Glyndebourne production: Patricia Bardon as the Roman widow Cornelia, Sesto’s stepmother; Christophe Dumaux as Tolomeo, Cleopatra’s brother and co-ruler; and Rachid Ben Abdeslam as the Egyptian servant Nireno.
McVicar’s production premiered at the Glyndebourne Festival in 2005 to tremendous critical acclaim. It has been revived at Glyndebourne three times and had its American premiere at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2007, in a production that also starred Daniels, Bardon, and Dumaux. Earlier this season, McVicar staged the Met premiere of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda. His previous Met productions include Verdi’s Il Trovatore in 2009 and the Met premiere of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena in 2011. This June, he will stage a new production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde for the Vienna State Opera.
Harry Bicket led an acclaimed revival of the Met’s previous production of Giulio Cesare in 2007, starring Daniels, Coote, and Bardon. He made his Met debut in 2004, conducting the Met premiere of Handel’s Rodelinda. In recent seasons, he conducted revivals of Rodelinda and Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, both of which were transmitted worldwide as part of the Met’s Live in HD series. Later this season, he will conduct new productions of Mozart’s Lucio Silla at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu and Handel’s Hercules at the Canadian Opera Company.
David Daniels made his Met debut as Sesto in Giulio Cesare in 1999 and made his company role debut as the title character in 2007. His other Met roles have included Oberon in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bertarido in the Met premiere of Rodelinda, Orfeo in the 2007 new production premiere of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, and Prospero in the world premiere of the Baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island. He has sung Cesare with the Glyndebourne Festival, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Detroit Opera. Next season at the Met, he sings Prospero in the first revival of The Enchanted Island.
Natalie Dessay sings her first Met performances of Cleopatra, a role she debuted at the Paris Opera in 2011. Her numerous acclaimed performances at the Met have included Fiakermilli in Strauss’s Arabella, the role of her debut; Zerbinetta in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos; Olympia in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann; Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata; and four new production premieres: Juliette in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette (2005), the title role in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (2007), Marie in Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment (2008), and Amina in Bellini’s La Sonnambula (2009). This summer, she will sing Antonia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann with San Francisco Opera.
Alice Coote made an acclaimed company role debut as Sesto at the Met in 2007, the same season she sang the role at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées with a Baroque orchestra under the direction of Christophe Rousset. She made her Met debut in 2006 as Cherubino in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. In 2007, she sang Hansel in the new production premiere of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, a role she reprised at the Met last season. This October, she returns to the Met to sing the central role of Detective Inspector Anne Strawson in the U.S. premiere of Nico Muhly’s Two Boys.
Patricia Bardon made her Met debut as Cornelia in 2007, the role she sang in the 2005 premiere of McVicar’s production at Glyndebourne and repeated there and at Lyric Opera of Chicago in subsequent seasons. Last season at the Met, she sang Erda in the new production premiere of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. She will open Los Angeles Opera’s 2013-14 season this September in the title role of Bizet’s Carmen.
Countertenor Christophe Dumaux has sung Tolomeo in numerous productions, including the premiere of McVicar’s staging at Glyndebourne and the U.S. premiere in Chicago; a concert staging with Les Arts Florissants at the Salle Pleyel in Paris; and productions at the Paris Opera, Dresden State Opera, and Salzburg Festival. He made his Met debut in 2006 as Unulfo in Rodelinda.
Guido Loconsolo makes his Met debut as Achilla, a role he has sung at Glyndebourne. Earlier this season, he sang the title role in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro with that company, Publio in a new production of La Clemenza di Tito at Madrid’s Teatro Real, Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Bolshoi in Moscow, and Plutone in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo in Freiburg and Essen, Germany.
All four designers have previous Met credits. Robert Jones made his company debut on opening night of the 2011-12 season as the set designer for McVicar’s production of Anna Bolena. Brigitte Reiffenstuel previously designed the costumes for McVicar’s Il Trovatore staging and David Alden’s 2012 production of Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera. Paule Constable’s lighting design credits include Anna Bolena, Michael Grandage’s staging of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and the Met premiere of Philip Glass’s Satyagraha. Andrew George choreographed Anna Bolena and provided new dances for Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Don Giovanni in 2000.
Titles and dates for the 2013 Summer HD Encores series will be announced April 26. Please visit metopera.org/hdlive for more information or to order tickets.
Synopsis of the Opera Giulio Cesare
Julius Caesar is embroiled in a bitter struggle with Pompey the Great for control of the Roman world. In their most recent battle, at Pharsalus (48 BC), Caesar defeated his rival, who subsequently fled to Egypt, which is under the joint rule of Ptolemy and his sister, Cleopatra. Caesar has pursued Pompey to Alexandria.
ACT I. The Egyptian people welcome Caesar to Alexandria (“Viva, viva”). Cornelia and Sextus, Pompey’s wife and son, request that peace be made between the two Romans, and Caesar agrees. Just then, Achillas, the Commander of the Egyptian army, enters with a gift for Caesar from Ptolemy, the King of Egypt: the head of Pompey. Apalled, Caesar tells Achillas that he must go to Ptolemy’s court and meet with the King (“Empio, dirò tu sei”). Sextus assures his mother that he will avenge his father’s death (“Svegliatevi nel core”).
In her apartments in the royal palace, Cleopatra declares the throne will one day be hers alone. Nirenus, her confidante, tells her that her brother has sent Pompey’s head to Caesar. She decides to address Caesar on different and more effective terms (“Non disperar”). Ptolemy enters and the siblings quarrel over who is more fit to be the Egyptian sovereign. After Cleopatra leaves, Achillas tells Ptolemy that his gift to Caesar was not welcomed. He advises his king to have Caesar murdered. Achillas himself will see to the murder if Ptolemy will reward him with Cornelia’s hand in marriage. Ptolemy agrees, although he, too, desires Cornelia (“L’empio, sleale”).
At his encampment, Caesar contemplates the urn containing Pompey’s ashes (“Alma del gran Pompeo”). He ponders the fleeting nature of life. Cleopatra enters and announces herself as “Lydia,” an attendant of Queen Cleopatra. Caesar is struck by her beauty. She tells Caesar that, though she is of noble birth, Ptolemy has deprived her of her fortune. She asks for justice. Caesar tells her that he is going to Ptolemy’s court and will present her request there (“Non è si vago e bello”). Once he has gone, Nirenus assures Cleopatra that she has snared the affections of the Roman. Cornelia approaches to pay her respects to Pompey’s ashes (“Nel tuo seno”). She picks up a sword from the pile of trophies and swears vengeance for her husband’s killing. Sextus assures her that he will fulfill his duty (“Cara speme”). Cleopatra comes forward, still as “Lydia,” and tells them she will help in their quest for revenge. She can help them gain access to the palace (“Tu la mia stella sei”).
In the royal palace, Caesar voices his disapproval of Pompey’s murder to Ptolemy. Left alone, he reflects that the crafty hunter moves silently and unseen (“Va tacito e nascosto”). He departs. Achillas presents Cornelia and Sextus to Ptolemy. The Romans berate the king for Pompey’s murder. As punishment for their bold words, the king orders Sextus confined to the palace and Cornelia to the harem garden. Achillas makes advances to Cornelia but is rejected (“Tu sei il cor”). He leaves mother and son to bemoan their cruel fate (“Son nata a lagrimar”).
ACT II. In the palace garden, Nirenus assures Cleopatra (still disguised as “Lydia”) that Caesar will be fascinated by her. “Lydia” provides entertainment for Caesar, presenting herself as Virtue (“V’adoro, pupille”). Caesar is enchanted (“Se in fiorito”). While Cornelia grieves (“Deh, piangete”), Achillas enters and again courts her. Ptolemy arrives. Achillas tells him that he has been unsuccessful with Cornelia but assures him he will kill Caesar that very day. Cornelia threatens to kill herself (“Cessa omai di sospirare”), but Sextus appears with Nirenus in time to prevent her. Sextus renews his promise to kill Ptolemy (“L’angue offeso”).
Cleopatra calls on Venus to help her conquer Caesar’s affections (“Venere bella”). She pretends to sleep. Caesar enters and is struck by “Lydia’s” beauty. Curius, the Roman Tribune, runs in with the news that the Egyptians are calling for Caesar’s death. “Lydia” reveals her true identity as Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, and offers her aid in quelling the uprising. She advises Caesar to flee the region, but he intends to master the situation (“Al lampo dell’armi”). Cleopatra, alone and recognizing Caesar’s extreme vulnerability, begs the gods for help (“Se pietà”).
ACT III. Ptolemy emerges victorious from a struggle between his and Cleopatra’s forces; she is now her brother’s prisoner. He puts her in chains and leaves, telling her she will soon kneel before him (“Domerò la tua fierezza”). Cleopatra mourns her fate and is led off (“Piangerò”).
Caesar appears alone by the sea, having survived a drowning attempt in the Alexandria harbor and been left for dead (“Aure, deh per pietà”). He hides as Sextus and Nirenus enter, looking for Ptolemy. They discover Achillas, mortally wounded at the water’s edge. He confesses to the murder of Pompey, asks them to speak kindly of him to Cornelia, and gives them a ring, telling them that a hundred armed men are ready to obey its bearer. He dies. Caesar comes forward and takes the ring from Sextus. He explains his escape from the harbor and orders them to follow as he goes to collect the soldiers and rescue Cornelia and Cleopatra from Ptolemy (“Quel torrente”).
In her apartments, Cleopatra is bidding her attendants farewell when Caesar and the soldiers rush in and free her. He leaves to continue the battle as she rejoices at her sudden turn of fortune (“Da tempeste”).
Ptolemy tries to court Cornelia in the palace harem, but Sextus discovers them and kills the king. Cornelia blesses her avenging son.
Caesar assures Sextus of his friendship and proclaims his love for Cleopatra. He places her on the throne (“Caro, più amabile beltà”) as the people celebrate (“Ritorni omai”).