Handel’s Julius Caesar February 9-11th

A story in which bold, charismatic personalities collide at the dramatic intersection of human passion and politics is intriguing on its own. But add the sumptuous score by George Frideric Handel and the exquisite voices of the UM Opera Theater, and the upcoming production of Handel’s Julius Caesar will truly be something to behold.  Handel’s Julius Caesar is this year’s exciting bi-annual creative collaboration between the University of Montana Opera Theater, UM Symphony Orchestra, and MCT, Inc. The opera will be presented at the MCT Center for the Performing Arts February 9-11.

While parts of Caesar’s life and death are known to many of us, this chapter highlights the historical events that unfolded when Caesar and Cleopatra’s tumultuous desires for power and for each other erupted. Director and UM Music Professor Anne Basinski notes that this is considered one of the most beautiful of Handel’s operas, and feels that “wonderful things happen to our young singers’ voices when they sing his music. They find color and tone quality they didn’t know they had.” Basinski revealed that it has been “so much fun to see historic figures represented in song onstage” and that “the events in this opera actually happened—the most unlikely and surprising are the truest.”

Another interesting aspect of the opera is that several of the male characters, including Caesar, are played by women.  UM student Marin Sewell is portraying Caesar, while the role of Sesto, the vengeful son of murdered Pompey, will be shared by Annmarie Ori and Ally Randolph. Basinski explained that casting women in the male roles is a modern musical choice; the roles were originally played by castrato singers (Baroque male virtuoso singers who were surgically altered before adolescence to keep their voices from changing). Two other castrato roles in this production have been replaced by tenors.

Basinski stated that working on an English translation of Handel’s Julius Caesar which sings well and sounds as natural as possible has been a challenge. The dramatic nature of the story propelled Basinski and the cast to “seek to balance the bright and dark moments of the opera. There are harsh, upsetting events, as well as playful and joyful moments.”

With costumes, set, and technical expertise designed by MCT, Inc., community artistic collaboration is at the heart of the excellence of the UM Opera Theatre production. The National Opera Association has recognized this quality and collaboration by bestowing national awards on The Gondoliers in 2016 and The Legend of Orpheus in 2014. Basinski encourages Montanans to experience the power of hearing and seeing a live opera. “There is nothing else like this to be seen or heard in our area!”

***Handel’s Julius Caesar runs February 9-11at the MCT Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are available at  www.MCTinc.org, by calling 406-728-7529 or at MCT’s Box Office. Handel’s Julius Caesar is sponsored by Dr. Thomas Rickard & Dr. Cathy Capps and is a joint production with MCT, Inc.