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Double turn of epic Handel

The composer’s mighty Giulio Cesare is being cut in half for English Touring Opera’s ambitious staging at Hackney Empire

29 September, 2017 — By Sebastian Taylor

Christopher Ainslie and Soraya Mafi star in Giulio Cesare. PHOTO: Richard H SmithChristopher Ainslie and Soraya Mafi star in Giulio Cesare

Ambitiously, award-winning English Touring Opera is putting on Handel’s celebrated epic Giulio Cesare at the Hackney Empire, Mare Street, late next week.

But the four-hour work is being cut in half so that opera buffs need to buy tickets for the two parts, getting a 20 per cent discount if booking for both.

Giulio Cesare is Handel’s most celebrated opera, a real clash of titans on stage,” says James Conway, the ETO’s artistic director and chief executive. “A thrilling story of passion and revenge, it features such glorious music that we are presenting it complete in two instalments.”

The first part opens next Wednesday evening followed by the second on Thursday evening – and the two parts are performed consecutively on Saturday afternoon and evening.

Part I: The Death of Pompey. Having defeated his rival Pompey, can Caesar now survive the machinations of King of Egypt Ptolemy and his sister Cleopatra?

Part II: Cleopatra’s Needle. The Battle for the Kingdom of the Nile reaches a crisis; Pompey’s family is enslaved; Caesar is presumed dead; and Cleopatra is made captive by her brother.

James Conway’s new production, set in period costume, features a first-rate cast. Counter-tenor Christopher Ainslie is in the title role, brilliant young soprano Soraya Mafi is Cleopatra and award-winning mezzo Kitty Whately is Sesto, stepson of Pompey’s widow.

In addition to Giulio Cesare, the ETO is staging one performance Rameau’s ravishing Dardanus on Friday evening. The opera contains some of the composer’s finest music, including the stunning aria Lieux funestes.

Giulio Cesare is at Hackney Empire October 4-7, details and tickets: www.hackneyempire.co.uk

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