Opera Video Review: “Non disperar”


Opera Video Review


1. Begin by reading this document.
2. Watch the following video selections from Giulio Cesare that have been posted online: “Non disperar”, “Va tacito”, and “Piangerò”.

Video Credits

Orchestra & Production Team Cast (only those featured in the excerpts are listed)
Conductor: William Christie Cesare (Caesar): Sarah Connolly
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Cleopatra: Danielle de Niese
Stage Director: David McVicar Tolomeo (Ptolemy): Christoph Dumaux
Set Designer: Robert Jones
Costume Designer: Brigitte Reiffenstuel
Movement Director: Andrew George
Fight Director: Nicholas Hall
Recorded live at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival in England, 2005.
Dramatic Context of the Arias
“Non disperar”
Cleopatra and Tolomeo (Ptolemy) jointly rule Egypt. Cesare (Caesar) has entered Egypt in pursuit of his rival Pompey. Tolomeo sends Cesare Pompey’s severed head as a gesture of friendship. It is unfavourably received. At the beginning of this scene, Cleopatra learns of Tolomeo’s barbarous and foolish actions. She decides to seduce Cesare in a bid to become the sole ruler of Egypt.
“Va tacito”
Cesare has come to Tolomeo’s palace for a parley.
Cleopatra and Cesare have become lovers. They have united to wrest control of Egypt from Tolomeo.
Tolomeo has defeated both of their respective armies in battle. Cleopatra has been taken prisoner.
Cesare has survived, but at this point in the drama, everyone believes him to be dead.


About the Work (these questions address the general features of the arias we have not studied)

1. What is unique about the orchestration of “Va tacito”? What might have prompted Handel to make this artistic choice? (Hint: Since the text of an opera is composed before the music, it may be a good place to begin in your attempt to get inside Handel’s mind as he composed the music for this aria.) (2 pt)

2. What affect or affects are exemplified in “Piangerò”? Describe one unusual feature of the aria’s form. (4 pt)

About the Performance (these questions address the particular performances you just watched)

3. David McVicar and his team took Bollywood movies as their inspiration for Cleopatra’s “Non disperar” and other numbers for the Egyptian characters. Can you think of any similarities between Bollywood movies and opera seria, and if so, what are they? If you cannot see the connection, or think the staging is inappropriate, explain why. (4 pt)

4. “Va tacito” features a very different style of dancing. Roughly what time period and place is this style of dancing primarily associated? Why do you think McVicar and his choreographer Andrew George chose this type of dancing for this scene? What does it emphasize about the dramatic situation of this scene? (4 pt)
5. On the whole, do you think the musical performance of these selections is historically authentic? Why or why not? Did certain performers do a better job than others? Be as specific as possible, mentioning factors like ornamentation and instrumentation. (4 pt)

6. On the whole, how historically authentic are the visual elements of this performance (think about the amount and style of stage action, costumes and hairstyles, setting and props, gestures and dancing). Give a few reasons for your decision, but be concise; other questions will require you to elaborate on specific elements of the performance. (4 pt)

7. The aesthetics of drama has changed considerably since Handel’s time. Many stage directors today go to great lengths to make da capo arias dramatically forward-moving for modern audiences, so their productions can escape the common moniker for opera seria, a “concert in costume”. Discuss how McVicar deals with this problem in Cleopatra’s “Piangerò”. (5 pt)

8. Approximately when do you think the production is set? How can you tell? (2 pt)

9. Why do you think McVicar picked the time period he did? (Hint: Think about where this performance was taking place.) (5 pt)

10. Why do you think there is a double-standard with regard to the expected authenticity of the musical performance of an opera versus the staging? Do you think this double standard is justified? Why or why not? (6 pt)


The question is a video analysis of an Opera video of a modern day representation of Cleopatra and Caesar. The scene starts with Caesar entering into Egypt pursuing Pompey. Ptolemy sends the severed head of Pompey to Caesar as a token of friendship which is received by Caesar in a disturbing manner. To set things right, Cleopatra tries to seduce Caesar in a bid not only to keep Caesar by her side, but also to become the sole rule of Egypt An analysis of this video has been given in the solution in detail.

Total Word Count 1504

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