Synopsis of Julius Caesar
After chasing (routing) his rival, Pompey, to Egypt, Julius Caesar and his troops settle victoriously on the banks of the Nile River. Pompey’s wife Cornelia, along with their son Sextus, beg Caesar to have mercy on Pompey. Caesar will only show mercy if Pompey asks for it in person. A few moments later, Achillas, leader of the Egyptian military brings Caesar a gift from King Ptolemy: the bloody head of Pompey. Ptolemy and his sister Cleopatra are currently ruling Egypt together. Ptolemy’s gift is an effort to gain Cesar’s favor and seize power from Cleopatra. Enraged by the gift, Caesar takes his leave to reproach Ptolemy. Cornelia is left alone to mourn the loss of Pompey, while Sextus swears vengeance for his father.
Meanwhile, Cleopatra, through the help of her handmaiden Nirena, has learned of Pompey’s death at Ptolemy’s hand. Realizing what she must do, she decides to win favor from Cesar by her own means. Achillas brings Ptolemy the news that Caesar was unhappy with Pompey's death, and offers to kill Caesar himself should he be given Cornelia's hand in marriage. Ptolemy relishes the thought of no longer having to deal with Caesar, and agrees to Achillas’ terms.
Disguised as the servant "Lidia", Cleopatra enters into Caesar's camp during a funeral service for Pompey. She meets with Caesar, who is distracted by her beauty, and divulges the hardships she has faced. Once the camp has emptied out, Cornelia, still wracked with grief attempts suicide. Sextus isn't far behind to stop her, and he reaffirms his vow to avenge his father's death. Having watched events unfold from afar, "Lidia" offers guidance to reach Ptolemy, Sextus, and Cornelia leave to find him.
Caesar enters Ptolemy's palace, suspecting something terrible may happen. Cornelia and Sextus arrive and, when Ptolemy sees Cornelia, he immediately falls in love with her, but gives the impression to Achillas that he will still give her to him. Sextus challenges Ptolemy, but loses, and Cornelia rejects Achillas’ advances. Burned by Cornelia’s rejection, Achillas has Sextus arrested.
has come to Cleopatra's palace in search of "Lidia." Cleopatra
instructs Nirena to lead Caesar into her room. She begins to sing of love and
cupid's arrows as Caesar draws nearer to her. He is captivated once more, by
In Ptolemy's palace garden, Achillas tries desperately (and unsuccessfully) to win Cornelia's affections. After the dejected Achillas leaves, Ptolemy takes his turn to win her over, but is met with the same harsh feelings. Sextus arrives hell-bent on killing Ptolemy. Nirena returns to inform Cornelia that she is to be held in Ptomley’s harem.
Back in Cleopatra's bedroom, her tryst with Caesar is interrupted when Curio, Cesar’s general, announces the approach of conspirators. She reveals her true identity to Cesare and offers to help him escape. Instead, he chooses to stay and fight. Left alone, Cleopatra prays to the Gods to protect Cesar.
Ptolemy sits in his harem, with Cornelia, when Sextus sneaks into the room, waiting for his chance to attack the king. Achillas bursts in and announces that his troops have just attacked Caesar. Having cornered him within the palace, the troops forced him to jump out a window into the sea, where he surely died. Achillas then demands that Ptolemy give Cornelia to him, but Ptolemy refuses.
Ptolemy and Cleopatra meet on the battlefield, where Cleopatra is defeated and taken prisoner. Caesar, who survived his fall and is washed up on shore, prays to find his way back to his beloved Cleopatra. Sextus, on his way to kill Ptolemy, stumbles upon a wounded Achillas. Having been betrayed by Ptolemy, who has kidnapped Cornelia, Achillas hands Sextus a ring that gives him full command of his troops stationed in a nearby cave. Sextus takes the ring and Achillas dies. Caesar arrives moments later and asks Sextus to let him take the ring and control the army. Sextus relinquishes the ring and Caesar quickly departs.
Cleopatra, having escaped from Ptolemy, returns to her destroyed palace. She is astonished when Cesare appears before her. The lovers embrace before setting out to Ptolemy's palace. Sextus arrives at the palace first and finds Ptolemy courting his mother again. This time, however, Sextus is able to exact his revenge and kill Ptolemy.
Cesar and Cleopatra enter and Cornelia presents tokens of Ptolemy's death to Caesar, who then hands them to Cleopatra. He tells her that he will support her as queen and the two announce their love. Everyone rejoices over the new-found peace.
Synopsis compiled from historical performance info and various references by the Florentine Opera Company ©2014