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Italian opera 'Giulio Cesare' coming to IU's Musical Arts Center


The pit orchestra rehearses for Giulio Cesare. The opera is coming to the Musical Arts Center for performances Feb. 1, 2, 8 and 9.  Samuel Arvin Buy Photos

A seductive love story, political drama and a mix of historical figures will all come together 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1-2 and 8-9 in the Musical Arts Center’s first opera of the semester, “Giulio Cesare.” 

This Italian opera, set in 48 B.C. ancient Egypt, tells the story of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. 

Caesar is attempting to add Egypt to the Roman Empire. This becomes complicated because Ptolemy, Cleopatra’s dishonorable brother, has seized the throne. Caesar must side with either Ptolemy or the seductive Cleopatra, who easily entices Caesar into getting whatever she desires.  

Considered one of Handel’s most beloved operas, conductor Gary Thor Wedow said the music, iconic characters and dramatic plot make “Giulio Cesare” different and full of unexpected twists and turns.

“It’s beautiful music," Wedow said. "It’s a feast for the ear, for the eye. I think it’s something that will inspire you to get out of yourselves, to be transported to another place, to another time.”

This opera, first performed in the 1700s, features baroque music that is among some of Handel’s best, Wedow said. Stage director Robin Guarino said the prominent music combined with the drama makes “Giulio Cesare” a gorgeous production.

“It has a fantastic story, and the music is wonderful and it’s a very dramatic piece that’s very well-written in terms of the storytelling and the drama,” Guarino said.

Senior Virginia Mims, one of the actresses playing Cleopatra in the production, said her character is one of the most complex she has ever played, with personal objectives and emotional depth. Mims said this is also the most singing she has done on stage by herself, which offers many exciting opportunities.

“I think the audience is going to walk away from this production feeling like they can see themselves in the characters a little bit,” Mims said. “It’s very emotionally relatable in certain ways, and the music is gorgeous.” 

Guarino said the baroque style music of the opera and the complex characters allow young professionals to develop their characters musically and as individuals. In addition, Guarino said the creative team brings the visual concepts of the opera to life on stage, which adds a great deal to the production.

“It’s musically and dramatically done on a very high level,” Guarino said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to see this work and to see the level of talent IU brings to it both in the creative team but also in the students.”

Between the cast, music and visuals, Mims said the production has been an incredibly rewarding experience.

“I think you’re gonna walk away feeling like you had a human connection and a human experience watching us perform in a way that can really connect people together,” she said. 

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