Music, Theatre departments present ‘ Julius Caesar’

Daily Sundial

Any wine connoisseur would tell you that drinking wine is an acquired taste. Opera fanatics could say the same for attending an opera for entertainment.

“Julius Caesar,” a production of both the Theatre Department and the Music Department opened in Nordhoff Hall on Oct. 28 at 8 p.m. as a part of a series of six shows.

The theater was about three-fourths full, primarily with mature audience members. A younger crowd could be heard cheering for the entertainers at the end of the performance.

At the beginning of the show, the conductor of the show’s symphony orchestra, David Aks, made his appearance and quickly disappeared to the concealed set for the orchestra. The orchestra gave a phenomenal performance and could have taken over the show if the cast ever had called in sick that night.

The orchestra set the enthusiastic mood for the evening as the actors appeared on stage. Julius Caesar (Vincent Robles) and his admirers were the first to arrive.

G.F. Handel composed the opera more than 200 years ago.

When Caesar sang his solo, he used a technique called a sustained vibrato. For a voice aficionado, this style of opera singing was fantastic. For those who do not understand the amount of skill and training it takes to perform such a task, the lengthy voice inflections are contrary to a discernible majority of modern American music tastes.

The chorus, who also appeared as Caesar’s admirers, was an ensemble of men and women. Many were dressed in scantily designed costumes, and some of the women were dressed in long, flowing dresses. The dress seemed to be reflective of the time period of the ancient Romans.

The female characters of “Julius Caesar” were amazing. When Cornelia (Katherine Karapetian) appeared on stage, her voice was soothing and commanding while she moved with grace across the stage. Her costume was a lovely white gown and her overall appearance was very elegant.

She appeared with Sesto, her son, and they were a very affectionate pair. His performance was animated.

Cleopatra (Ani Maldjian) was awesome as well. Her voice resonated through the theater and was very powerful. She was very passionate about her role as the clever Cleopatra.

Achilla (Jason Choi) and Curio (Travis Haase) were also very good in their roles. The evil villains were great in their roles.

While even those who do not understand opera can appreciate powerful voices, the acting was a sub par perhaps due to too much emotion that made them seem out of character.

As for stage design, there were two sets that consisted of a screen with a projection of Rome on it and three large pyramid-type props with hieroglyphics written on them. The pyramid-type structures were rolled around on stage in different configurations to set up a different scene.

The premise of the story is Caesar’s revenge on the tyrant who beheaded Cornelia’s wife. He then falls in love with a servant girl who is actually Cleopatra, but she has an evil brother who takes over the kingdom.

While the entire opera was sung in Italian, which the cast sang very fluently, the story was written in English through projection over the stage. Trying to follow the story was very difficult. One could follow the story easier by knowing the history of Cleopatra and Caesar first, but going in there blindly might lead one down a confusing path.

Overall, those who sang had very talented voices and the cast was very passionate about what they were doing. Their performance seemed heartfelt and sincere in their devotion to present a good show.

To spend two hours listening to opera, one must love it first.

From Broadway to Nordhoff Hall, opera is an acquired taste. Those who are looking for something new should give it a shot.

“Julius Caesar” will continue to play at Nordhoff Hall on Nov. 4, 5 and 6. Performances will also be held during the spring.

Michael Sullivan can be reached at michael.sullivan.843@csun.edu.