This opera is set in Persia (present day Iran) in 480 BC and is very loosely based upon Xerxes I of Persia. Apart from the reported infatuation of King Xerxes with a plane tree and his ... See full summary »


(original libretto), (English translation) | 1 more credit »


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Cast overview:
Ann Murray ...
Valerie Masterson ...
Jean Rigby ...
Lesley Garrett ...
Christopher Booth-Jones ...
Rodney Macann ...


This opera is set in Persia (present day Iran) in 480 BC and is very loosely based upon Xerxes I of Persia. Apart from the reported infatuation of King Xerxes with a plane tree and his reported construction of a bridge, this tale is pure supposition. Xerxes is engaged to Amatris, but wishes to marry Romilda, the daughter of his successful general. Romilda wants to marry Arsamenes, the brother of the King, but Atalanta - Romilda's sister - wants Arsamenes to be her husband. Written by Paul C. Dickie

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Comedy | Romance | Music





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Xerxes (Serse), opera in Three acts
Music by George Frideric Handel (as Georg Friedrich Händel)
Libretto after "Xerxe" by Nicolo Minato revised by Silvio Stampiglia
English adaptation by Nicholas Hytner
Performed by Ann Murray, Valerie Masterson, Christopher Robson,
Jean Rigby, Lesley Garrett, Christopher Booth-Jones, Rodney Macann with English National Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Conducted by Charles Mackerras
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User Reviews

Imaginative and a real joy
1 June 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Starting a Handel opera phase, Xerxes was next on my list. And I have to say of the three Handel productions I've seen this week, this 1988 Xerxes was the best one, after a I think polarising but for me very good Rinaldo from 2001 and a disappointing Ariodante from 1996(Semele is next). The costumes and sets are bright and colourful, well served by the lighting and the close-ups, which are not too much or too few. The staging is moving with splashes of humour and is easy to follow. Musically, it is just as good. The music is some of Handel's most beautiful, and apart from an occasionally too heavy harpsichord the orchestral playing is stylish and MacKerras's conducting well-chosen in the tempos with a good sense of drama. I can't fault the performances much either. Christopher Robson is a brilliant Arsamenes, fluent technically and very heroic, and the Amastris of Jean Rigby is well and truly sensuous. There are a couple of occasions where Lesley Garrett comes across as too coy, but overall as Atlanta she is a breath of fresh air, very charming indeed. Ann Murray in the title role is incredibly vivid in terms of acting, her singing is at times of a steely tone but overall technically secure. Valerie Masterson is not at her best(I have a fondness for her Konstanze in Glyndebourne's 80s production of Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail), understandably as apparently she was not very well, but she still sings beautifully and with commitment as Romilda. Overall, an imaginative and joyous Xerxes, now I am highly anticipating Semele. 9/10 Bethany Cox

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