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Understanding Italian Opera$
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Tim Carter

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190247942

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190247942.001.0001

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Nicola Francesco Haym and George Frideric Handel, Giulio Cesare in Egitto (London, 1724)

Nicola Francesco Haym and George Frideric Handel, Giulio Cesare in Egitto (London, 1724)

Chapter:
Chapter 3 Nicola Francesco Haym and George Frideric Handel, Giulio Cesare in Egitto (London, 1724)
Source:
Understanding Italian Opera
Author(s):

Tim Carter

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190247942.003.0003

By the early eighteenth century, Italian opera was well established on the European stage. Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Julius Caesar in Egypt; 1724), to a libretto by Nicola Francesco Haym, was one of a long series of opere serie that the composer wrote for London. Here, ancient history served British royal propaganda, while still allowing the genre to indulge its fascination with dangerously seductive women who somehow needed to be tamed so as to bring order into the world. The role of Julius Caesar was taken by the castrato Francesco Bernardi (“Senesino”), and that of Cleopatra by Francesca Cuzzoni. By now the poetic structures of librettos had become highly formalized—not least in terms of the role of the da capo aria—but Handel still makes some intriguing choices, and the advantage of convention is that deviations from it become all the more powerful.

Keywords:   aria, da capo, Bernardi, Caesar, Cleopatra, Cuzzoni, Handel, Haym, London, opera seria, Senesino

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