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Music by George Frideric Handel

Libretto by Nicola Francesco Haym

Timothy Nelson, artistic director

Adam Pearl, music director

The Baltimore Baroque Band

Risa Browder and John Moran, directors

Thursday through Saturday, February 16–18, 2012, at 7:30 PM

Sunday, February 19, 2012, at 3:00 PM

Theatre Project, 45 West Preston Street, Baltimore
Admission $25 / Seniors $15 / Students with ID $10
Tickets available from Theatre Project online, or call 410/752–8558

Peabody Opera home

Artistic Director Timothy Nelson writes:

There are works of art which rise out from their epoch, being at once exemplifiers for the style in they were created, and transcending that very style to communicate larger and more human truths. Handel’s Giulio Cesare is just such a work. While Handel began here to break away from the strict da capo structure of baroque opera (including extended use of recitativo accompagnato, arioso, arias where the return is broken by recitative, and use of choral interruptions), this opera is the apex of baroque opera seria. At the same time, the brilliance of Handel’s dramatic pacing, subtle melodic writing, and harmonic ingenuity coalesce into an opera that conveys fundamental eternal principles for audiences of any age (just as in Le nozze di Figaro, Falstaff, or even the St Matthew Passion).

George Frideric Handel

Handel’s Giulio Cesare’s themes are just those that face our society today, and every great society throughout history. They are the costs of power, the failure to reach cultural understanding between disparate peoples, the futility and bareness of war, violence, shifting allegiances and borders. It is about terrorism, how thinly defined that term is; and it is about the fineness of the line dividing justice and revenge, perhaps suggesting a continuum between the two. It is also a mirror, asking at which point in the search for justice do we resemble the very forces which we oppose so much that a distinction ceases to be possible.

Julius Caesar       Cleopatra VII

These are the inherent issues of societal growth, of expansion and conquest — whether that is the Romans in Egypt, the English in India, the Soviets in Afghanistan, or the Americans in Iraq. The reasons and the answers may be different, but the questions remain the same forever. For me the ties between this story, and how Handel chooses to tell this story, and our current incursions into the middle-east are unmistakable. I have tried to create a production that utilizes evocations of that contemporary situation, with an abstraction that allows the eternal quality of the work to bloom.

Mosque minaret

Ultimately what makes Giulio Cesare the undisputed crown of baroque opera is the dimensionality of its characters. Regardless of how some productions choose to represent the players in the drama, there are essentially no “bad guys” and “good guys” in Giulio Cesare, no black and no white. Each character comes with a unique and personal perspective, each has their own story, faults, hopes, faith. The truth of the work exists not in them, but rather in the space, understanding, and lack of understanding between them. This is how Giulio Cesare rises out of its epoch, working within a style based upon archetypal figures, to create a series of characters that are anything but.

Sunrise in the desert

In my professional life I am lucky enough to have two mentors. The first is Peabody’s own Roger Brunyate. The second is director Peter Sellars, who I am also fortunate enough to call my friend. Many people may be familiar with Sellars 1981 production of Giulio Cesare, and they would then see dramaturgic similarities between this production and his. These are intentional. It is a bit taboo in opera today for productions to borrow so clearly from each other. This of course is not the case in other arts (one need only think of Brahms’ 1st Symphony next to Beethoven’s 9th, or the works of Picasso and Braque). Because the themes of Giulio Cesare are eternal, and because Sellars hits those themes so effectively, the interest is to see a production today that starts from the same dramaturgy, but with an additional 30 years of mid-east political history. How valuable look into that pool again, after two wars in Iraq, after a crippling defeat in Afghanistan that collapsed the mighty Soviet Union, after the fall of two towers and the fall of America’s ideological dominance, and after the untold proliferation of profit and terror. The final moments of this Giulio Cesare become almost an homage to that iconic production.


Achilla  Matthew Sullivan
Cleopatra  Julie Bosworth
Cornelia  Janna Critz
Giulio Cesare  Daniel Moody
Nireno  Megan Ihnen (guest)
Sesto  Elizabeth Merrill
Tolomeo  Kerry Holahan