Et Tu, Decca?

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Handel: Arias from Julius Caesar

Joan Sutherland / Soloists / Richard Bonynge, conductor / New Symphony Orchestra of London

Decca SXL 6116

The great soprano Joan Sutherland headlines these excerpts from Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto. Nice sleeve art from the art department at Decca, bearing a facsimile of the edition from 1724.

Loosely based on the Roman Civil War (49-45 BCE), and especially on the love affair between JC and Cleopatra (the whole romantic/political power relationship between Caesar and Cleopatra, and later Marc Antony and the queen, with all the wives and illegitimate children in the mix sounds like a bad political soap opera, which usually makes for grand opera seria).

The earliest performances of Handel’s work featured a castrato in a couple roles, including that of Caesar himself. It’s remained one of the most staged operas from the Baroque period. Gottingen in the 1920s had a major revival of Handel, and in true Weimar Republic fashion, the opera opened with expressionist sets and silent film imagery.

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