Handel’s Giulio Cesare: From Egypt to England
01 October 2006 - 05 May 2006
Spring 2006 saw the opening of a new exhibition at the Foundling Museum which was the first of the Museum’s temporary exhibitions to focus on the foundling connection with the composer George Frideric Handel. Giulio Cesare in Egitto, first performed in 1724 by a stellar cast which included the castrato Senesino, is one of Handel’s best known works, and with over 200 productions worldwide was pivotal in the rediscovery of Baroque opera in the twentieth century.
In 1724 when Handel staged Giulio Cesare in Egitto, he presented the London audiences with a portrayal of the Roman dictator quite different to the familiar historical, Shakespearean figure. The original libretto on which the opera is based is a light-hearted affair, written for the Venice carnival season in 1676. The details of the plot, which focuses on the love affair between Caesar and Cleopatra, are largely fictional.
Handel’s score added depth to the characters, creating a more dramatic work and some of his most challenging roles, for which he enrolled a star-studded cast providing them with some of his best known melodies, including ‘Piangerò’ and ‘Va tacito’.
The exhibition traced three hundred years of performance history through documents, images and related events, including baroque staging, dinosaurs in Munich, and 2005’s Bollywood style production at Glyndebourne.
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