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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Opera - Xerxes - Royal Northern College of Music

Star rating – 6/10

I like my opera passionate and dramatic, so this was a bit of a punt as Handle’s ‘Xerxes’ is a cross between comedy and tragedy. The music, as you would expect from such an esteemed composer, was absolutely beautiful, and really well played and conducted, by Roger Hamilton.
It is set in ancient Persia, with King Xerxes wanting to marry Romilda, but she is in love with his brother Arsamene, and not with Atalanta, who also loves him. So an amusing array of cross dressing and cross purpose, not to mention crossed lovers, ensues. It was a bit too long for me, at over 3 and a half hours. And the plot was just not dramatic or substantial enough for my tastes. Some of it was a bit bonkers, like the opening where Xerxes seems to be in love with a plane tree for some reason. He then spends hours chasing a woman who doesn’t love him, then at the drop of a hat changes his mind and goes back to the woman he said he loved before!!

There was a stand out performance by Gabriella Cassidy as Romilda, but some of the other singing was a bit patchy. There was a excess of female voices– the main male parts were originally sung by castrati – and the women singing them here didn’t feel strong enough in places.

And please can someone tell me why the director chose to make his singers splutter and cough through the later stages of the opera in a haze of dry ice –it was just not necessary, and made them look like extras from an Adam Ant video.

But the absolutely delightful music by Handel was excellent to the last, so maybe I will let him off the dodgy and very slight storyline. Back to Tosca for me then...

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