The UK’s award-winning opera company in the North of England, Opera North, returns to The Lowry this month with three spectacular productions: the well-loved classic Madama Butterfly, a rare staging of Bellini’s Norma, and a brand new production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare. With three to choose from, how to make up your mind? Here, James Laing (Tolomeo) makes a case for Giulio Cesare with his five top reasons to see…

1. A truly epic love story!
Who is this Giulio Cesare anyway? Well, in plain English, he’s Julius Caesar – Handel’s opera tells the story of the most famous ancient Roman leader and his love affair with Cleopatra, queen of Egypt.

2. Squabbling siblings!
My character, Tolomeo, is Cleopatra’s brother and her rival for power – he’s the villain of the piece and great fun to play. Sarah Tynan (Cleopatra) and I also wear matching outfits in royal blue and gold, along with fantastically creepy gold finger extensions…

3. Brilliant set!
The set design is by Leslie Travers and it’s really clever – the main element is inspired by a pyramid which rotates and opens in different ways like a jewelled box to reveal Cleopatra and Tolomeo’s palace inside. There are all kinds of tunnels and staircases which add to the political intrigue... plenty of places for assassins to hide.

4. Baroque instruments!
Handel’s music uses all kinds of instruments which aren’t used so much in modern orchestras, including a harpsichord, viola da gamba (similar to a modern cello) and a theorbo, which is a kind of lute.

5. Great drama!
Love, war, vengeance, seduction, murder… it all happens in Giulio Cesare.

Opera North's Giulio Cesare is at the Lowry on 1 March.