Giulio Cesare in Egitto
is one of Handel’s richest scores and has become well known in modern performance. It was first produced at the King’s Theatre on 20 February 1724. Haym adapted the libretto from two versions of an earlier text by F Bussani, based on Julius Caesar’s visit to Egypt in 48BC and his encounter with Queen Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy, both vying for supreme rule of the country. Cleopatra uses her considerable feminine wiles to gain Caesar’s favour. In the most famous scene of the opera, at the start of Act 2, she appears in a representation of Mount Parnassus, surrounded by the Muses, and attempts to seduce Caesar in the aria ‘V’ adoro, pupille’. The haunting melody is introduced by a short sinfonia and is exotically accompanied by the orchestral strings and a stage band of nine instruments (representing the nine muses) including oboe, harp, theorbo and viola da gamba.
from notes by Anthony Hicks © 1996