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Context Theatre / GiulioCesareInEgitto

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1''Giulio Cesare in Egitto'', often shortened to ''Giulio Cesare'' (''Julius Caesar in Egypt''), is a 1725 opera by Music/GeorgeFredericHandel, considered to be one of his best works and one of the best-known Baroque operas overall nowadays. The libretto by Nicola Haym is a rewrite of an earlier libretto by Giacomo Francesco Bussani (adapted to music by Antonio Sartorio; it's believed Händel used some of his music too when writing his version) and is extremely loosely based on the relationship of UsefulNotes/CleopatraVII and UsefulNotes/JuliusCaesar, and the civil conflict in Egypt in which they were involved. ˛˛Julius Caesar arrives in Egypt and decides to make peace with Pompey, only for Ptolemy’s henchman Achillas to arrive with Pompey’s head. Caesar is disgusted and promises to make the pharaoh pay. Pompey’s widow and son, Cornelia and Sextus, swear vengeance as well. ˛˛Meanwhile, Ptolemy’s sister Cleopatra believes the throne should be hers since she’s the eldest, so she decides to get Caesar to help her with her rebellion. Disguised as a lady-in-waiting names Lidia, she arrives at his camp and says [[ExactWords she is a highborn woman and Ptolemy has stolen what’s her birthright]]. Caesar is immediately smitten and promises to help her. After a while, Cleopatra realizes she has fallen in love with him as well. ˛˛Cornelia and Sextus, attempting to get their revenge, are captured by Ptolemy instead, and Cornelia finds both Ptolemy and Achillas vying for her favors. But Ptolemy makes the mistake of promising Cornelia’s hand to his general and then going back on his word in the most humiliating manner possible, so Achillas switches to Cleopatra’s side. When Caesar and Cleopatra’s army is defeated, the mortally wounded Achillas gives Sextus the ring with the commander’s sigil and tells him where the relief troops are hiding. Caesar, whom everyone thought dead, emerges alive and well, and the tide of the battle turns. Sextus is finally able to kill Ptolemy, and Caesar crowns Cleopatra as Queen of Egypt. ˛˛!! The opera and its productions contain examples of:˛* OneHundredPercentAdorationRating: Caesar is universally beloved in Egypt (Ptolemy and initially Achillas being the only known exceptions), so that everyone squees at the news that Egypt will now be subject to Rome. ˛* AnachronismStew: Done in the ENO production to imitate the style of Händel's lifetime. Back then, whatever the setting of the plot, men wore armor that had a vaguely Roman look and women wore contemporary dresses.˛* ArousedByTheirVoice: Cleopatra sings a song to Caesar to ensure her seduction works, and it does – he is completely entranced by her voice as much as by her looks. ˛* ArtisticLicenseHistory: A norm for opera, especially in the Baroque period.˛** The fact that Cleopatra and her brother were married is never referenced, and neither is Caesar’s own marriage. ˛** At the time of the plot, the RealLife Sextus Pompey was busy rebelling against Caesar, not making friends with him as he does in the opera. He also, most probably, had nothing to do with the death of Ptolemy. ˛** Achillas dies earlier than his historical counterpart, and in an entirely different way. ˛* AsYouKnow: For the audience's benefit, Caesar and Curius decide to remind each other who Cornelia is in the beginning of the first act.˛* BackForTheFinale: The entire cast, including the dead Ptolemy and Achillas, gathers for the final chorus.˛* BaldOfEvil: Ptolemy often has one. In the ENO opera film, he is also surrounded by identical bald minions. ˛* BeautifulDreamer: Invoked by Cleopatra, when she pretends to be asleep so that Caesar would openly confess his feelings for her. It works. ˛* BecomingTheMask: Cleopatra initially seduces Caesar to make him her ally, but ends up really falling in love with him. ˛* BigDamnHeroes: Sextus bursts in dramatically to save Cornelia, twice – first to stop her from killing herself, then to rescue her from Ptolemy. ˛* BSODSong:˛** Cleopatra’s ''Piangeró la sorte mia'' is the most famous one. She sings it when she is captured by Ptolemy with no hope of escaping and believes Caesar to be killed. ˛** Caesar’s ''Aure, dei, per pietá'' – when Caesar has barely survived leaping into the sea, his troops are scattered, and he doesn’t know what has happened to Cleopatra.˛* ComfortingTheWidow: Curius tries it with Cornelia mere minutes after Pompey’s head is brought in. Achillas and Ptolemy aren’t too far behind him. ˛* CondescendingCompassion: Cleopatra towards Ptolemy when she tells him that it’s not a big deal he can’t inherit the throne, after all, he still has his harem!˛* ContraltoOfDanger: ˛** Inverted with the female characters – Cornelia, a contralto, is the more timid of them, and Cleopatra, a soprano, is the tougher one. ˛** Played straight if Caesar, Ptolemy and/or Sextus are sung by women. ˛* CreepyCrossdresser: In his first appearance in David [=McVicar=]’s production, Ptolemy is dressed exactly like Cleopatra, who is onstage at the moment as well and whom [[{{Squick}} he proceeds to grope]]. ˛* CreepyHighPitchedVoice: Ptolemy is usually sung by a countertenor (the part was originally written for alto castrato). ˛* CrosscastRole: The majority of the parts were written for castrato voices, and now every role except Achillas and Curius (both of them basses) can be sung by women. Sometimes, Sextus and Nirenus can even get their gender changed to make the casting and costuming easier – since them being female makes zero difference to the plot. ˛* DarkerAndEdgier: A downplayed example with the ENO opera film starring Janet Baker and Valerie Masterson, which is made in a more serious tone than most productions. ˛* DeathByAdaptation: In Sartorio's opera, Ptolemy is put in chains but not killed.˛* DeathbedConfession: Before dying, Achillas tells Sextus and Nirenus that he murdered Pompey and started the coup against Caesar. The audience [[InternalReveal knows the latter]], and the former is more or less easy to figure out, but Sextus, Nirenus and Caesar (who’s listening at a distance) are shocked and disgusted. ˛* DemotedToExtra: Curius was a much more prominent character in Sartorio's opera; in particular, he had several arias. In Händel's, he has a handful of recitatives, and even these are often cut.˛* DishonoredDead:˛** Pompey’s severed head is brought to Caesar as a welcoming gift. Caesar is mortified. ˛** After Achillas dies, Sextus commands to throw "the worthless corpse" into the sea. [[DueToTheDead Averted]] in the ENO production, where that line is cut and Caesar respectfully closes Achillas’s eyes. ˛* DoggedNiceGuy: Curius, perhaps the only unambiguously nice guy in the whole story, gets repeatedly rejected by Cornelia. In Sartorio/Bussani's earlier version, she does accept him in the end, but Händel/Haym‘s version lacks that part. ˛* DudeMagnet: Surprisingly for an opera about Cleopatra, it’s not her but Cornelia, who has three suitors.˛* FauxAffablyEvil: Ptolemy can maintain a polite and courteous facade, if not for very long. ˛* FloweryInsults: Caesar sings a six-minute aria where he subtly compares Ptolemy to a hunter setting a snare. ˛* GoodStepmother: Cornelia for Sextus – in the stagings that stick to the fact that Sextus was Pompey’s son by one of his previous wives. It’s either that or they are RelatedInTheAdaptation and made mother and son. ˛* GriefSong: Cornelia’s ''Priva son d’ogni conforto'', after she sees [[AndIMustScream her husband’s head]] brought to Caesar. ˛* TheHeroSucksSong: Ptolemy’s ''L’empio, sleale, indegno'', where he explains in detail what he thinks of Caesar.˛* ImDyingPleaseTakeMyMacguffin: Achillas to Nirenus and Sextus (it’s ambiguous whether he recognizes either of them at any point) when he gives them the ring. ˛* KingIncognito: Cleopatra gets disguised as a servant and calls herself Lidia. ˛* LoveAtFirstSight: Again, pretty common in baroque opera. ˛** Achillas for Cornelia. ˛** Caesar for Cleopatra.˛* LoveDodecahedron: Hardly a surprise in baroque opera, it includes almost everyone. So: Caesar and Cleopatra fall in love with each other, Cornelia was HappilyMarried to Pompey, is loved by Curius and pursued by Achillas and Ptolemy. Curius also nearly makes a move at Cleopatra (in her Lidia disguise), and some adaptations include the real life-based IncestSubtext between Cleopatra and Ptolemy. ˛* LoveRedeems: Achillas’s love for Cornelia is what triggers his HeelFaceTurn. ˛* LyricalDissonance: Two of Achillas’s arias sound like war songs and are actually (from his point of view, at least) sweet confessions of love. ˛* MistreatmentInducedBetrayal: As Achillas puts it, "who doesn’t have honor deserves no loyalty".˛* ParentsInDistress: Sextus has to save his mother (or ParentalSubstitute stepmother, if the adaptation sticks to the historical fact) from Ptolemy. ˛* PoliticallyIncorrectHero: Cornelia’s first reason for rejecting Achillas is not that he is Ptolemy’s cruel henchman, or that he tries to threaten her into acceptance, or that he brought her husband’s head to Caesar, or anything of that sort, but:˛-->"I, a ''Roman'', wife to a vile ''Egyptian''?!"˛* PragmaticAdaptation: Sartorio's opera was way longer, had a way more convoluted plot and LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters who are constantly falling in love with/declaring hate for/[[TheLastOfTheseIsNotLikeTheOthers getting disguised as each other]]. Haym's removal of many of Bussani's details brings focus to the two main plotlines (Caesar and Cleopatra, Cornelia and Sextus), both dramatically and musically.˛* ReasonBeforeHonor: As Ptolemy steadily refuses fighting honorably, Sextus ends up killing him when he’s defenseless in his harem.˛* RedemptionEqualsDeath: Achillas is killed trying to overthrow Ptolemy (or, in some productions, by Ptolemy himself before he even gets a chance to try).˛* ReplacementGoldfish: Curius considers trying his luck with "Lidia" since Cornelia has rejected him again. ˛* RevengeBeforeReason: Cornelia and Sextus just walk into the palace and try to attack Ptolemy with absolutely no backup except for NonActionGuy Nirenus. Needless to say, it doesn’t end well for them.˛* ReverseMole: Nirenus is Cleopatra’s man in the palace and quietly sabotages Ptolemy’s plots (for example, freeing Sextus). ˛* SensitiveGuyAndManlyMan: A villainous example with the boyish-voiced Ptolemy, who loves to rhapsodize about the beauty of his concubines (or ''potential'' concubines) and [[BreadEggsMilkSquick about how he’ll torture and kill his enemies]], and the BadassBaritone Achillas whose arias have much less elaborate lyrics and who prefers brutal force over poisonous cunning. ˛* SettingUpdate: Done more often than not in modern productions, with the 2005 David [=McVicar=] production moving the plot to India of the 19th century, and the 2013 one from Salzburg – to modern Egypt.˛* SiblingRivalry: Cleopatra and Ptolemy’s war for the throne of Egypt. ˛* VillainLoveSong:˛** Achillas has two – ''Tu sei il cor di questo core'' (''You are the heart of this heart'') and the frequently cut ''Se a me non sei crudele'' (''If you aren’t cruel to me''). Many productions have him sing them with genuine tenderness, but the fact that he organized the murder of Cornelia’s husband and imprisoned her son does ''not'' help his cause.˛** Ptolemy has ''Belle dée'' (''Beautiful goddesses''), addressed to his entire harem. ˛* TheVillainSucksSong: Caesar’s ''Empio, diró, tu sei'' – the first verse is directed at Achillas, the second at Ptolemy (though in some productions, like the ENO’s version with Janet Baker, it’s entirely about Ptolemy).˛* WarriorPoet: Caesar is a great conqueror and has all of the most poetic and philosophical arias in the opera. ˛* WhyDontYouJustShootHim: Even after he’s finished with his EvilGloating and with no intentions to spare Cleopatra, Ptolemy, for no reason, keeps her alive long enough for Caesar to find and rescue her. ˛* WorthyOpponent: Caesar highly admires Pompey’s leadership skills and courage and is ready to reconcile with him.˛* YouGotSpunk: In David [=McVicar=]’s production, Achillas finds it endearing when Cornelia pushes him away again and again. When she slaps him so hard he falls back, he grins in delight.


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