While in Egypt, Caesar’s favor is sought
by brother and sister. Tolomeo (countertenor Gerald Thompson) commits a
diplomatic blunder when he holds up the severed head of Pompey,
Caesar’s former ally, recently defeated in battle. Horrified, the Roman
is more receptive to the dead man’s widow Cornelia (mezzo Lucia
Cervoni) and son Sesto (mezzo Aurhelia Varak), who want revenge against
Wily as in all characterizations,
Cleopatra (soprano Lyubov Petrova) resolves to win Caesar’s support
disguised as Lydia, a servant. As her plotting becomes unraveled,
Cleopatra is forced to reveal herself and is captured. Caesar appears
to be defeated. And a general betrayed by Tolomeo, Achilla (baritone
Jonathan Lasch), comes to the fore by the final curtain, implying
Egypt’s fate will not lie in either Caesar or Cleopatra’s hands.
The title role of Caesar presents unique
difficulties. Originally written for a virtuoso castrato, the singer
must demonstrate lightning versatility over eight notes that are drawn
on again and again. Castrati no longer being on the labor market, the
decision was made to cast muscular mezzo Laura Vlasak Nolen as the
general, just as another mezzo, Aurhelia Varak, is Pompey’s son Sesto.
Nolen’s photograph in the program
displays a quite feminine-looking woman, but under Guarino’s direction
she defines Caesar’s character physically, with a heavy swing of the
shoulders and a wide, jackbooted stance. In the original production,
the singer for Caesar received three times the wage than the composer
did, and Nolen displays the power and grace of a commander. Fittingly,
her voice is not as high as that of Thompson as Tolomeo, who wins
plenty of bravos for his second act’s aria, speaking of his resolve to
A fourth production, Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuletti e I Montecchi, is clearly based on Romeo and Juliet.
Along with all the musical glories, this opera marks the Glimmerglass
debut of phenomenal New York stage director, Anne Bogart. Also running
this summer is a special concert performance of Mendelssohn’s complete
incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra on Sunday, Aug. 17, 11:30 a.m.
Glimmerglass Opera is an upstate
treasure, enjoying increasingly international esteem. The majority of
the audience has come on pilgrimage from miles away, but it’s only a
90-minute drive from the Syracuse New Times office on West Genesee Street.
All shows are presented in repertory. Kiss Me Kate,
sung in English with projected titles, runs Saturday, Aug. 16, 8 p.m.;
Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2 p.m.; and Saturday, Aug. 23, 8 p.m. Giulio Cesare in Egitto,
sung in Italian with English titles, continues Sunday, Aug. 17, 3 p.m.;
Thursday, Aug. 21, 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Aug. 23, 1:30 p.m. Das Liebesverbot
, sung in German with English titles, will be performed Thursday, Aug.
14, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 16, 1:30 p.m.; and Friday, Aug. 22, 8 p.m. I Capuleti e I Montecchi,
sung in Italian with English titles, runs Friday, Aug. 15, 8 p.m.;
Monday, Aug. 18, 2 p.m.; and Sunday, Aug. 24, 2 p.m. Tickets range from
$51 to $126; the Mendelssohn concert is $48. For more information, call
(607) 547-2255 or visit www.glimmerglass.org.
Caesar dressing: Anthony Roth Costanzo and Aurhelia Varek in Giulio Cesare in Egitto.