Opera Uncovered: Giulio Cesare

Music and Drama in Handel’s Giulio Cesare

Bryan White

Handel’s Giulio Cesare was first performed in London in 1724. It met with immediate success and the composer revived the opera a number of times during his career. Like all opera seria, it disappeared from the stage when the genre was eclipsed by the reforms of Classical period, and, apart from sporadic, incomplete performances, it did not gain traction as a repertory opera until the last quarter of the twentieth century.

It has since come to be the most frequently staged and popular of Handel’s operas for modern audiences. Giulio Cesare has a unique place within the genre of opera seria, the characteristics of which are significantly different to those of most opera in the modern repertory making this a challenging piece to stage.

Bryan White is Senior Lecturer and Director of Research in the School of Music at the University of Leeds. His research focuses on British music and culture of the 17th and 18th centuries. He has recently published the book Music for St Cecilia’s Day from Purcell to Handel (Boydell, 2019).


Further Reading and Listening:


Synopsis and brief discussion by Donald Burrows for the Handel House website  Read more 

Wikipedia article on Giulio Cesare  Read more

BBC 3 Discovering Opera: ‘Handel: Operas’ Listen

Eric Lam, ‘Rhetoric and Baroque Opera Seria’ from the Handel Institute website (1996)  Read more

Winton Dean and J. Merrill Knapp, Handel’s Operas, 1704-1726 (Revised paperback ed.), (Oxford, 1995), esp. pp. 483–526  Buy book


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