• Giulio Cesare Synopsis

The Story

Audio tracks are embedded within each activity. A pronunciation guide and "Who's Who" chart can be found here.

Pompeo, the rival defeated by Cesare in the battle of Pharsalus (48 BCE), has fled toEgypt, with Cesare hot on his trail.

ACT I

Scene 1: The royal court welcomes Cesare to Alexandria, the capitol city of Egypt.
Aria: “Presti omai l’egizia terra” (Cesare)

Scene 2: Pompeo’s wife and son, Cornelia and Sesto, ask Cesare to make peace with Pompeo, and he agrees.

Scene 3: Achilla, commander of Egypt’s army, arrives with a gift for Cesare from the Egyptian king, Tolomeo: Pompeo’s severed head on a platter. Cornelia faints. Cesare, disgusted, calls for Pompeo’s head to be cremated, with its ashes placed in a fine urn. He chastises Achilla and announces that he will pay a visit to King Tolomeo.
Aria: “Empio, dirò, tu sei” (Cesare)

Scene 4: Cornelia revives. Cesare’s general, Curio, offers his hand in marriage, vowing to avenge Pompeo. Sesto insists that revenge will be his.
Aria: “Priva son d’ogni conforto” (Cornelia)
Aria: “Svegliatevi nel core” (Sesto)

Scene 5: In her chamber, Tolomeo’s sister, Cleopatra, tells her servant Nireno that she intends to rule Egypt in her brother’s place. Nireno reports the incident of Pompeo’s head. Cleopatra decides to offer Cesare a more appropriate welcome, a step toward supplanting Tolomeo. She taunts her brother: even though he’s about to lose power, he may yet find love.
Aria: “Non disperar, chi sa?” (Cleopatra)

Scene 6: Achilla reports back to Tolomeo on the angry reaction to Pompeo’s head, announcing Cesare’s intention to pay Tolomeo a call. Achilla vows to kill Cesare—if Tolomeo will reward him with Cornelia’s hand in marriage.
Aria: “L’empio, sleale, indegno” (Tolomeo)

Scene 7: Cesare pays tribute to the urn with Pompeo’s ashes. Curio announces a visitor: a servant of Cleopatra named Lidia—who is actually Cleopatra in disguise.Cesare falls in love with “Lidia” and agrees to help her steal the Egyptian throne.Curio, too, decides to marry her should Cornelia refuse him. When Cesare and Curioleave, Nireno tells “Lidia” that she’s succeeded in winning Cesare’s heart. She revels in having outmaneuvered her brother, Tolomeo.
Aria: “Non è sì vago e bello” (Cesare)

Scene 8: Cornelia comes to pay tribute to Pompeo’s urn. She swears vengeance, but Sesto insists revenge is his duty alone. As they consider how to approach Cesare, “Lidia” appears and offers to help.
Aria: “Cara speme, questo core” (Sesto)
Aria: “Tu la mia stella sei” (Cleopatra)

Scene 9: Cesare comes to see Tolomeo, who intends to have him killed.
Aria: “Va tacito e nascosto” (Cesare)

Scene 10: Cornelia and Sesto come to see Tolomeo. He immediately falls in love with Cornelia. But when she charges him with her husband’s murder, he has them both arrested. He lets Achilla believe that he can have Cornelia, then denies it under his breath.

Scene 11: Achilla proposes to Cornelia, who rejects him. He sends Sesto to prison, but holds Cornelia back.
Aria: “Tu sei il cor di questo core” (Achilla)
Duet : “Son nato a lagrimar” (Cornelia)/”Son nato a sospirar” (Sesto)

ACT II

Scene 1: In a pleasure garden, Cleopatra sends Nireno to bring Cesare.
Aria: “Chi perde un momento” (Nireno)

Scene 2: Nireno advises Cesare to await “Lidia.” Cleopatra arrives, dressed as Virtue, then disappears. Nireno assures Cesare that “Lidia” will receive him in her chambersand bring him to Cleopatra.
Aria: “V’adore, pupille” (Cleopatra)
Aria: “Se in fiorito ameno prato” (Cesare)

Scene 3: Cornelia sings of her plight. Achilla offers to ease her pain in marriage, and she tries to flee.

Scene 4: Tolomeo arrives. Achilla explains that he’s come to woo Cornelia, but she’s spurned him. Tolomeo gloats, but again tells Achilla that Cornelia will be his if he kills Cesare.
Aria: “Sì, spietata, il tuo rigore” (Tolomeo)

Scene 5: Cornelia decides to kill herself rather than marry Achilla. Fortunately, Sesto (who has escaped from prison) and Nireno appear. Sesto reaffirms his vengefulintent.

Scene 6: Nireno shocks Cornelia with the news that Tolomeo has ordered her to join his concubines. But this, he says, will provide Sesto an opportunity to hide nearby and kill Tolomeo. Sesto again swears vengeance.
Aria: “Cessa omai di sospirare!” (Cornelia)
Aria: “L’angue offeso mai riposa” (Sesto)

Scene 7: In the pleasure garden, “Lidia” feigns sleep and overhears Cesare talking to himself about marrying her. She opens her eyes to say yes, startling Cesare. He can’t marry a servant girl, he says. In that case, says “Lidia,” she’ll go back to sleep.
Aria: “Venere bella” (Cleopatra)

Scene 8: Curio rushes in to tell Cesare that Achilla’s assassins are in the palace and his life is in danger. When Cesare says he will therefore leave Egypt, “Lidia” sits up to stop him, amazing Cesare by admitting that she’s really Cleopatra. Cesare prepares for war as his enemies close in. Cleopatra, seeing that she too is now in peril, swears to fight Tolomeo as Cesare’s ally.
Aria: “Al lampo dell’armi” (Cesare)
Aria: “Se pietà di me non senti” (Cleopatra)

Scene 9: Standing among his concubines, Tolomeo chooses Cornelia. She rejects his advances. Sesto prepares to attack.

Scene 10: Achilla grabs Sesto’s sword. He has come to tell Tolomeo that Cesare and Curio have escaped into the sea. Cesare is presumed dead. Achilla asks for his reward: Cornelia. The king refuses, infuriating Achilla.

ACT III

Scene 1: Achilla declares he will henceforth serve Cleopatra.
Aria: “Dal fulgor di questa spada” (Achilla)

Scene 2: After an initial victory against Cesare’s army, Tolomeo takes Cleopatra captive.
Aria: “Domerò la tua fierezza” (Tolomeo).

Scene 3: Cleopatra, in chains, laments her fate.
Aria: “Piangerò la sorte mia” (Cleopatra)

Scene 4: Cesare lands safely ashore. He comes upon Sesto and Nireno, then Achilla,who lies mortally wounded. Achilla, not recognizing the others, asks them to passone last message to Cornelia: He arranged Pompeo’s murder in order to marry her. He then tells them an army stands ready nearby to attack Tolomeo. Sesto has Achilla’s corpse tossed into the sea.
Aria: “Aure, deh, per pietà” (Cesare)

Scene 5: Cesare lays out his plan to rescue Cleopatra.
Aria: “Quel torrente che cade dal monte” (Cesare)

Scene 6: With Cesare living and Achilla dead, Sesto envisions his revenge.
Aria:“La giustizia ha già” (Sesto)

Scene 7: Cesare rescues Cleopatra.
Aria:“Da tempeste il legno infanto” (Cleopatra)

Scene 8: Tolomeo again advances on Cornelia. She pulls out a dagger to defend herself.

Scene 9: Sesto arrives and insists upon being the one to kill Tolomeo. They fight, and Sesto kills Tolomeo.
Aria: “Non ha più che temere” (Cornelia)

Scene 10: Cornelia and Sesto bring Tolomeo’s crown and sceptre to Cesare. He offers Cleopatra the throne of Egypt. She accepts, but only under the authority of Cesare and Rome. Celebration ensues.
Duet : “Caro! Più amabile beltà” (Cleopatra)/”Bella! Più amabile beltà” (Cesare)
Duet : “Un bel contento il sen già se prepara” (Cleopatra and Cesare)