The Met: Live in HD, a series of live transmissions from New York City’s Metropolitan Opera to theaters around the country, concludes its 2012-2013 season with a simulcast of Handel’s Guilio Cesare at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center. (The series, presented locally by Opera SLO and Cal Poly Arts, picks up again when the 2013-2014 season begins in October.)
On Saturday, April 27, at 9 a.m. (hey, we’re three hours ahead out here), witness David McVicar’s production of one of Handel’s most popular operas live on the big screen. Countertenor David Daniels sings the title role, with Natalie Dessay starring opposite as Cleopatra. Harry Bicket, a baroque specialist, conducts the performance.
Giulio Cesare, which takes place in Egypt in 48 B.C., tells the story of Julius Caesar (Cesare in Italian) and Cleopatra. As the opera opens, a victorious Caeser arrives on the banks of the River Nile with his troops, having defeated the forces of Pompey. Pompey’s wife Cornelia begs for Caesar to spare her husband’s life, and he agrees—on the condition that Pompey must meet him in person. Instead, Achilla, the leader of the Egyptian army, presents Caesar with Pompey’s decapitated head, a token of support from Ptolomy (Tolomeo), who rules Egypt with his sister, Cleopatra. Cornelia’s son swears to avenge his father’s death, Cleopatra seduces Caesar, hoping to turn him against Ptolemy, and Achilla and Ptolemy try to win over Cornelia—and this is all just the beginning.
“This grand and ancient subject might suggest a vast, Cecil B. DeMille-style epic, but Handel’s operatic masterpiece takes the opposite approach,” program notes read. “The opera explores the inner lives of larger-than-life subjects with insight and elegance in a score full of arresting subtleties, dreamy trance-like melodies, and vocal heroics.”
Guilio Cesare has a running time of four hours and 31 minutes, so get comfortable. Admission is $12 to $20; visit pacslo.org or operaslo.org for tickets.