FGO press notes describe the work as "a tale of power and passion with grand themes of warfare, heroic action, and inner turmoil."
"Handel's sumptuous score and epic tale define the Baroque Opera tradition, and internationally, Julius Caesar is arguably the most frequently produced pre-Mozart opera."
This production - staged by Mark Lamos and conducted by Gary Thor Wedow - featured American soprano Leah Partridge as Cleopatra. The cast also included John Gaston in the title role, Brian Asawa as Ptolemy, and Katherine Calcamuggio as Sesto.
Partridge returned to FGO, having originally joined as a member of the Young Artist Studio during the 2002-2003 season. The young soprano has made a particular specialty of the bel canto and Verdi repertoires, and she has received praise from critics around the world for her impeccable technique and dramatic insight. Her roles with the company include Violetta in La traviata, the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor, Gilda in Rigoletto and Amina in La sonnambula. This past season she notably created the role of Roxanne in the world premiere of David DiChiera's Cyrano for Michigan Opera Theater and made her Metropolitan Opera debut as the First Niece in the new John Doyle production of Britten's Peter Grimes.
Countertenor John Gaston, a first-place winner of FGO's Young Patronesses of the Opera Voice Competition, made his company debut with this production. Lauded by The New York Times for his "velvety tone and a regal serenity" in recent performances of Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Gaston's other roles include Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice, the title role in Orlando, Tirinto in Imeneo, Siroe in Medarse and both Caesar and Ptolemy in past stagings of Julius Caesar.
Countertenor Brian Asawa, taking on the role of Ptolemy, launched his career when he became the first countertenor to win the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. A recipient of Seattle Opera's Artist of the Year Award for his portrayal of Arsamene in Handel's Xerxes, his upcoming engagements include duo recitals with Yaniv d'Or at the Saint Egrve Festival in France and with Oleg Ryabets at the Farinelli Festival in Riga, Latvia, Carmina Burana with Eugene Symphony and Handel's Messiah at the Chicago Lyric Opera.
Katherine Calcamuggio, a current member of the Young Artist Studio, rounded out the cast. A prize winner with Palm Beach Opera and the Bel Canto competitions, Ms. Calcamuggio has performed roles with, Chicago Opera Theater, Glimmerglass Opera, OperaModa, Springfield Regional Opera, Aspen Music Festival, and the Brevard Music Festival.
Based in Miami, Florida Grand Opera will kick of its 2008-2009 season in November with Verdi's La traviata, featuring sopranos Eglise Gutierrez and Ailyn P_rez sharing the role of Violetta.
Florida Grand Opera was formed in June 1994 by the merger of Greater Miami Opera, founded in 1941, and The Opera Guild Inc., of Fort Lauderdale, founded in 1945. Florida Grand Opera stands as one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Florida. In addition to producing standard repertoire, Florida Grand Opera also presents lesser known operas, as well as commissions and produces new operas. FGO offers several highly successful outreach and educational programs, including its internationally-recognized Young Artist Studio. Founded in 1984, the program attracts young singers who train and enhance their professional skills during a 35-week Miami residency.
For more information and tickets visit www.fgo.org
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All photos by Deborah Gray Mitchell for Florida Grand Opera.