The opera trilogy «I, Claudius» and «Claudius the God» is inspired by Robert Graves’ epic work, which made a big splash as soon as it was published and is now a must-read in 20th-century historical novels.

The BBC TV series brought the title back to life in 1976, and it was a hit once again, and, in 2011, HBO snagged the rights to remake the BBC TV series «I, Claudius» and even considered making it a spin-off or sequel to its underrated historical drama «Rome.» They thought about using the same sets (which were, and still are, in a film studio outside Rome) and a similar format.

The idea of creating a grand opera based on «I, Claudius» and «Claudius the God» came up in 2014. We started talking with William Graves, President of the Robert Graves Foundation.


Igor Escudero Morais is a Spanish composer. He is the author of thirteen operas (including this trilogy based on «I, Claudius»), three musicals, three profane oratories, concerts, soundtracks for documentaries, OST for audiovisuals and short films, sacred and profane choral music, cantatas and a great variety of chamber pieces. He has written works for three albums, for nine RTVE documentaries and several national and international festivals.

After releasing I Claudius, in 2020 he premiered the second part of his ‘Tríptico Becqueriano’ in the ‘Festival de las Ánimas’. In 2021 he premiered «Los Comuneros» (commissioned by the Courts of Castilla y León to commemorate Fifth Centenary of the Communal Movement) and «La leyenda de Tamonante». In 2022 he premiered «Borderland», which earned two nominations for the MAX awards in Spain. 


William Graves at the premiere at the Roman Theater in Mérida

The score for «I, Claudius» and «Claudius the God» is challenging to characterize because it blends the modes and melodies of the Ancient World, interconnecting them with the physical origins of music, and interprets them using a tempered instrumental framework.

The musical structure and form of the score are also distinctive, deviating from traditional canons, formulas, and structures to approach a new dramatic synergy.

Hence, the opera contains an unusual number of characters (56), as well as temporal and spatial jumps. This is why its plot spans seven decades of Roman history, incorporating narrative elements and techniques from other genres, such as constant changes in location or the use of flashback. The use of a bestseller as the dramatic foundation for the trilogy was not accidental either.

«I, Claudius» aim to promote the evolution of the canon and propose new musical and stage challenges. The work should be seen as an innovation project not only due to the complexity of the libretto and the magnitude of the cast but also because of the characteristics of the score.

The plot

I, Claudius and Claudius the God is told in three chapters, each one of them conceived as stand-alone operas and devised to be represented consecutively in one show. Each episode’s title refers to the most significant character in it. Overall, they keep to Ancient Rome History timeline, though some flashbacks have been introduced to enhance the storyline.The libretto is true to Robert Graves’ novels: I, Claudius (1934) and Claudius the God (1935), both based on reliable historical sources. These novels narrate the history of the Julio- Claudian dynasty throughout more than 70 years – from Augustus’ new imperial government (23 B.C.) up until the death of Emperor Claudius (54 A.D.)

Claudius himself –a historian by choice- recounts the story of his family driven by a sense of duty. He wants to clear his name and also right the turbulent events he witnessed from childhood. Through his lifetime, he learned how to shield behind his so-called “foolish” nature, thus managing to survive to all those tragedies -either deliberate or fortuitous-, that surrounded his family for decades.Even though he was deeply committed to the Republic values, his love for Rome compelled him to accept the role of emperor after his sudden designation in 41 A.D.. After that, historical sources portray his government as peaceful, prosperous and successful.


After more than two decades of governing Rome, the great Augustus, first emperor and head of the Julio-Claudian family, has led the main world power to a golden era of wide expansion and social and economic growth. Yet, he wouldn’t have accomplished those goals had it not been for Livia, his wife, who controls him and actually runs Rome from the shadows. Through the years she has been slowly getting rid of anyone who dared escape her control, no matter if family or not.

It’s been foretold that the Julio-Claudian family will rule Rome for decades. This dynasty is a spring of heroes, but it also has its own black sheep: young Claudius. An extremely weak, crippled stutterer, at only one year of age he had already been close to death three times and had lost his father.Despite his kindness, honesty and industriousness, Claudius is repudiated by almost everyone, even by his own mother. His brother Germanicus and his friend Postumus, who are both candidates to succeed Augustus as the leaders of Rome, are the only ones that love and respect young Claudius.As Livia manipulates Augustus to name her son Tiberius as only heir to the throne so she can continue to rule Rome through him, Claudius, who dreams of becoming a historian and has no political aspiration, must learn to survive in a nest of vipers.


Following Livia’s death, Emperor Tiberius’ depravity is out of control. From his retreat in Capri, Tiberius –who has left Rome in the care of Sejanus, his right hand and leader of Guard- has ruined everything Augustus and Livia gave so much for to accomplish.

Rome hopelessly sinks into a dark age, marked by corruption and non-stop executions of citizens. They find solace in knowing that Tiberius’ life is close to an end, and that Caligula – the late Germanicus’ son- has been chosen to succeed him. High expectations are held for him. However, Claudius knows all too well that his nephew, Caligula, shares nothing of his father’s virtuous nature.

When Caligula finally occupies the throne, he couldn’t be more blessed: the treasure is at its best and the people adore him. But after just a few months, the people of Rome grow tired of his excesses and eccentricities. When love gives way to hatred, Caligula wastes no time in showing his true colours. As the treasure gets empty, Rome plunges into a reign of terror, even worse than that of Tiberius.

With the only support of his old friend Herod and the intelligent prostitute Calpurnia, Claudius –who has become Caligula’s personal fool- learns to tread the fine line of the emperor’s personality. One false move will mean death.



Emperor Caligula has been murdered by his own captain of the Guard, Cassius. His death has left a power vacuum in Rome that the Senate, devoid of any ability to govern on its own after decades of humiliations and the submission, tries to fill by naming a new emperor: Claudius.

New to a position of power, Claudius proves wrong everyone who thought him a fool. For years, he devotes himself to work tirelessly to rebuild everything that his predecessors destroyed. He undertakes social and economic reforms, and also huge public works. Leading an army on the battlefield for the first time in his life, Emperor Claudius manages to annex and pacify Britain, making it a new roman province. All of his actions have one purpose only: to erase the Julio-Claudian dynasty mark on Rome and to give to the Senate the tools to function on their own. Time is close when Claudius will reveal his true intentions: to restore the Republic.

However, on his way to building a future new Rome, Claudius faces challenges he could not have anticipated. In Jerusalem, his good old friend Herod, who believes himself the incarnation of the messiah, plans a general uprising in the East.

And at home, Claudius doesn’t realise that the person he trusts the most is the one who most likely will betray him: his own wife Messalina


‘Jazz’, lírica y modos griegos para el emperador Claudio

Una ópera recupera el superventas de Robert Graves sobre los césares, que triunfó en la televisión hace cuatro décadas

‘Yo Claudio’, la ópera como tendencia

Libros adaptados y musicados por Igor Escudero, un compositor iconoclasta de la llamada música clásica contemporánea.


A Graves le hubiera gustado

Robert Graves: tras el visionado del primer capítulo del televisivo I, Claudius, remitió al productor un escueto telegrama: «A  Claudio le hubiera gustado». Estoy seguro de que a Graves también le hubiera gustado.