Rage Arias

In Handel’s 1724 opera Giulio Cesare, the role of Sesto (Sextus) is written for a soprano to sing en travesti, i.e. cross-dressed as a teenage boy. Sesto is the son of Pompey, one of Caesar’s rivals, who has been killed by Caesar’s Egyptian allies. In Act I, Sesto sings a version of a “rage” aria — a standard number in eighteenth-century opera seria — in which he vows to avenge his father’s death.

In this production, director Peter Sellars has updated the action from 48 B.C. to the modern day Middle East. Sesto is sung by Lorraine Hunt.

Same director, same singer; different opera, different role: “Ah, chi mi dice mai,” Donna Elvira’s entrance aria in Don Giovanni, written some 60 years after Handel’s work.

Is “Ah, chi mi dice mai” a rage aria?

How are these two arias alike? How are they different?

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