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.
LIVIA PART 1
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.
CALIGULA PART 2
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.
CLAUDIUS THE GOD PART 3
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