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Phone: 812-855-9846
E-mail: musicpub[at]indiana [dot] edu

IU Opera Theater to stage politically charged love story 'Giulio Cesare'

WHAT: Opera Giulio Cesare (sung in Italian with English supertitles)
WHEN: Feb. 27, 28 and March 6, 7 at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Musical Arts Center (MAC)
TICKETS: Tickets for the Feb. 27 show, which is general admission, are $25 ($12 for students). Tickets for all other performances range from $15-$35 ($10-$20 for students). The Musical Arts Center box office hours are Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.Get ticket information online at http://www.music.indiana.edu/publicity/opera/2008-2009season/internal/tickets.html, or call the Musical Arts Center at 812-855-7433.

In a perfect complement to ArtsWeek 2009's "Politics and the Arts" theme, the political power struggles of ancient Egypt -- and the passionate love affair between the iconic figures Cleopatra and Cesare -- will come to life on the stage of Indiana University's Musical Arts Center when the Jacobs School of Music stages Giulio Cesare, one of George Frideric Handel's most popular operas.

Giulio Cesare
A scene from IU Opera and Ballet Theater's 2003 production of Handel's "Giulio Cesare"

Set in Egypt, in 48 B.C., Giulio Cesare captures the intrigue and high-stakes plots and rivalries of the Roman court. With a libretto by Nicola Francesco Haym, the story opens in Egypt, just after Caesar has conquered Pompey, who has fled Rome after starting a civil war.

The opera is conducted by Gary Thor Wedow and directed by Tom Diamond with sets designed by Robert O'Hearn. It will be sung and performed as close to authentically Baroque as is possible, with contemporary staging.

"Giulio Cesare has everything: two famous, historical figures, bits and pieces of actual historical fact . . . it's got violence, it's got sex, it's got love, it's got noble passions," said Wedow. "After Cesare changed the course of Western civilization, he rewrote the geography of the Mediterranean and Rome as we know it."

Assassination plots ensue before Caesar and Cleopatra eventually declare their legendary love for each other in a final aria that Wedow calls "thrilling."

Wedow recently attended a seminar on Cleopatra in which he learned that her reputation as a great beauty may have been exaggerated because of her extraordinary charm and intellect.

"Several reliable references said she wasn't so beautiful, but she was brilliant. She spoke many languages, she was charming, she was a great reader of personality, very politically savvy and fun to be around," said Wedow. "Cleopatra was a party girl. One of the things we recreate in this opera is an opulence, a sumptuous kind of pleasure."

In contemporary times, Wedow thinks Cleopatra may have manifested as headline-making political blogger Arianna Huffington. "Cleopatra is smart, she's analytical … the show is about the political struggle between Cleopatra and her brother, Ptolemy, for control of the throne. She uses her best weapons, her intellect and her beauty, to convince Cesare to support her."

ArtsWeek 2009

Wedow, an adjunct professor at Jacobs and a 1972 graduate of the Jacobs School, says that Baroque opera is a specialty that's extremely challenging to pull off.

"You don't sing Handel the way you sing Puccini," Wedow said, likening watching this kind of challenging musical performance to seeing top athletes compete in the Super Bowl. "When you see these performers, they're doing impossible things, scoring touchdowns, embellishing tunes spontaneously like you do in jazz. I love this show so much, and the talent pool at the Jacobs School is deep."

For more information about IU's Jacobs School of Music, see www.music.indiana.edu/.