Giulio Cesare

Saluzzo Opera Academy Summer Program in Italy

For Alcina click here.

We will be casting for the following roles:

Giulio Cesare - Mezzo / Countertenor or Soprano
Cleopatra - Soprano
Tolomeo - Mezzo / Countertenor or Soprano
Cornelia - Contralto or Mezzo / Countertenor
Sesto - Soprano
Achilla/Curio - Bass
Nireno - Mezzo / Countertenor or Soprano

Check out a typical day at SOA for a taste of our program.

The setting of the opera is Egypt 48 B.C.

Act I

The opera begins with Julius Caesar (Giulio Cesare) and his general Curio landing in Egypt. They are met by Cornelia, the widow of Pompey, and her son Sextus, who have come to seek Caesar’s help and protection. Pompey was a rival of Caesar, and after his defeat, he was killed by Ptolemy’s men. Cornelia and Sextus seek justice for Pompey’s murder and peace.

While Caesar contemplates the situation, Ptolemy’s general Achillas arrives, bearing a gift for Caesar. To Caesar’s shock and disgust, the gift is Pompey’s severed head, a brutal and disrespectful gesture. Caesar, though angered, decides to control his emotions and sends Achillas back to Ptolemy with a message that he intends to meet the Egyptian king at his palace before nightfall.

Cornelia and Sextus lament the loss of Pompey and vow to avenge his death. Their grief and determination to seek justice become clear. Meanwhile, in the palace at Alexandria, Cleopatra is introduced. She plans to take sole possession of the throne and has learned of Ptolemy’s betrayal of Pompey through her servant Nirenus. Cleopatra decides to visit Caesar’s camp in disguise to win his favor and assistance.

Before she leaves, Cleopatra and Ptolemy engage in a heated argument. Ptolemy is suspicious of Cleopatra’s intentions and questions her loyalty. Nevertheless, Cleopatra manages to leave the palace undetected.

Achillas informs Ptolemy about Caesar’s reaction to the gift of Pompey’s head and offers to assassinate Caesar in return for Cornelia as his reward. Ptolemy, fearing the increasing power of Rome under Caesar’s leadership, reluctantly agrees.

In Caesar’s camp, Caesar presides over Pompey’s funeral rites. Cleopatra, disguised as Lydia, a noblewoman stripped of her birthright by Ptolemy, arrives and presents herself to Caesar. She captivates him with her beauty, and Caesar promises to help her in her plight.

Cleopatra and her servant Nirenus watch as Cornelia pays her last respects to her husband Pompey. Cornelia and Sextus secretly plan to kill Ptolemy. Cleopatra, still in disguise, approaches them and offers the support of the Queen of Egypt. She also provides Nirenus as a guide to enter the palace.

Caesar meets with Ptolemy for a diplomatic discussion. Their encounter is tense, but Caesar cautiously accepts Ptolemy’s invitation for hospitality at the palace. In the palace, Cornelia and Sextus confront Ptolemy about Pompey’s death, and tensions escalate. When Sextus challenges Ptolemy to combat, the Egyptian king orders their imprisonment.

Achillas attempts to win Cornelia’s favor by offering her freedom in exchange for her affections, but she angrily refuses. Cornelia and Sextus bid each other a sorrowful farewell before they are separated by the guards.

Act II

Cleopatra, using the pseudonym Lydia, has arranged an entertainment at the palace to further enchant Caesar. When Caesar arrives, he is captivated by Cleopatra’s song and beauty. Nirenus assures Caesar that “Lydia” is deeply attracted to him and will await his arrival in her apartment later that night.

Meanwhile, Cornelia, now a prisoner of Ptolemy, despairs about her fate. She rebuffs Achillas’s advances once again but is then subjected to Ptolemy’s unwanted advances. Distraught and feeling trapped, Cornelia contemplates taking her own life but is saved by the sudden appearance of Sextus, who has managed to escape from prison with Nirenus’s help.

Nirenus also brings news that Ptolemy has ordered Cornelia to become one of his concubines. With Nirenus’s assistance, Sextus plans to infiltrate the harem, where Ptolemy will be most vulnerable.

Cleopatra waits for Caesar in her apartment, pretending to be asleep when he arrives. They begin a romantic tryst, but their intimate moment is interrupted by Curius, who has overheard Achillas’s assassins searching the palace for Caesar. Cleopatra reveals her true identity to Caesar and implores him to flee to safety, fearing for his life. However, Caesar is resolute and decides to confront his enemies head-on. Cleopatra prays to the gods for Caesar’s protection and for the love she now genuinely feels for him.


Ptolemy, confident in his harem, lays down his weapons and throws a white veil to Cornelia, a symbol that she is to become his concubine that night. Sextus seizes an opportunity and attempts to assassinate Ptolemy using the king’s own sword, but Achillas intervenes and disarms Sextus. Achillas then summons Ptolemy to prepare for war.

Ptolemy’s belief that Caesar has died in the harbor during the previous night’s assault boosts his confidence. Cleopatra has fled to the Roman camp and has mustered an army to march on the palace. Ptolemy prepares to lead his troops into battle but refuses to grant Achillas the promised reward for killing Caesar. Instead, Ptolemy insists on having Cornelia as his own prize.

Achillas, infuriated by Ptolemy’s betrayal, decides to switch his allegiance to Cleopatra, seeing her as a more promising ally.

Ptolemy’s troops achieve victory in the battle, and Cleopatra is captured. Her brother promises to exact terrible revenge, and Cleopatra faces death with courage and dignity.

However, Caesar, far from his armies, is not dead. The sea has cast him ashore, and he finds himself alone and vulnerable. Sextus and Nirenus stumble upon the wounded Achillas, who is dying on the beach. Overheard by Caesar, Achillas gives Sextus a seal that grants the bearer authority to command his troops. As Achillas breathes his last, Caesar takes the seal from Sextus and departs to assemble a force to storm the palace. Sextus, filled with newfound hope for revenge, clings to the belief that victory is within reach.

In the prison where Cleopatra is held, she has prepared to take her own life. However, Caesar and his troops break in and rescue her. He instructs her to go to the port to rally her armies while he departs to wage war against Ptolemy. Cleopatra rejoices, knowing that her love for Caesar has brought her a second chance at life.

Believing himself to be victorious, Ptolemy sees no obstacles to pursuing Cornelia. However, Sextus finally seizes his chance and kills Ptolemy.

With the battle won, Caesar crowns Cleopatra as the sole Queen of Egypt. Cleopatra declares her allegiance to the Roman Empire, solidifying their bond. The lovers sing in celebration, and everyone welcomes the arrival of peace.