In the 80's and 90's of the last century, Peter Sellars, the bad boy of opera, made quite a name for himself with his imaginative restaging of operas from the Classical and Baroque periods. While many of his works were done on stage, Sellars also did operas on film. Giulio Cesare in Egitto, a version of the Caesar and Cleopatra story, is the best of Handel's 40+ operas and receives brilliant treatment at the hands of Sellars. Set in the modern Middle East, Giulio Cesare is presented as a lesson in geopolitics. Caesar, having defeated his rival, Pompey the Great and completed the Roman conquest of Egypt soon finds himself embroiled in palace politics as the teenage Cleopatra and her brother, Ptolemy, each attempt to exclude each other from the throne and claim the crown for themselves. (Cleopatra wins, of course; in the scene where she seduces Caesar it's clear that he's roadkill and will do anything she asks.) Countertenor Jeffrey Gall leads a strong cast. Unlike many countertenors, Gall's voice has real dramatic power, so that he can use his voice expressively as well as just sing in the alto castrato range for which Handel originally wrote the part. Finally, Sellars has the courage to do the entire opera, including all the repeats and extra arias that are usually omitted. The result is a four hour extravaganza. However, if you like Handel, or opera for that matter, you won't mind.
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