The activities in this guide address several aspects of Giulio Cesare:
- the use of the three-part da capo aria in Baroque opera
- instrumentation in Baroque opera
- voice and gender in the casting of Baroque opera
- the production as a unified work of art, involving creative decisions bythe artists of the Metropolitan Opera.
Getting Inside Their Heads: A Close Look at the Structure and Function of the Baroque Da Capo Aria
Three elements are key to the experience of this Live in HD production of Giulio Cesare: David McVicar’s inventive staging; the opera’s plot; and the basic building block of Baroque music theater: the da capo aria. Students will instantly appreciate the first. They’ll benefit tremendously from familiarity with the second, both by learning a bit of classical history and as a means of maintaining orientation during arather long opera. But nothing can contribute more profoundly to the appreciation of Handel’s art than an understanding of the musical da capo form.Giulio Cesare incorporates 27 arias and three duets. Each unfolds according to the same formal structure and on a specific timescale that will seem unusual to most young people (and that is unknown in the more frequently heard operas of the Classical and Romantic periods): da capo numbers can seem slow, and the operas that are made up of them can seem long. But once students understand what’s going on in the music and text, as well as the characters’ heads, this form will prove to be subtle, magnetic, and psychologically acute. To help explain this concept, this Classroom Activity takes the form of a game, in which teams of students will:
- listen to full arias, then listen to brief selections and figure out where and whythey fit within each aria’s da capo structure
- distinguish between melody and ornamentation
- identify melodies in terms of their function and meaning
- associate musical selections with roles in Giulio Cesare, considering narrativestructure and character development
- become familiar with the historically inspired plot of Giulio Cesare.