The late Winton Dean, doyen of British Handel scholars, memorably summed up Giulio Cesare in Egitto
as ‘a glorification of sexual passion uninhibited by the shadow of matrimony’. Composed at the zenith of Handel’s operatic success, it triumphed on its premiere at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, on 20 February 1724, and netted a record thirty-four performances in the composer’s lifetime. The familiar historical setting has doubtless contributed to Giulio Cesare
’s popularity, then and now, though plot and characters were given a thoroughly Baroque makeover by librettist Nicola Francesco Haym. In the process Caesar, a role fashioned for the star castrato-from-hell Senesino, became an idealistic youthful hero, a far cry from the cynical middle-aged tyrant of history.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2014