Xerxes: George Frideric Handel (1738)

Handel: Xerxes


(Oper am Rhein, Düsseldorf, 2 May 2015)

When my friends joined me at the interval of Oper am Rhein’s Xerxes, they found me clutching my prosecco glass with a slightly wild look in my eyes. “I haven’t the faintest idea what’s going on!” I whimpered. Since I’d spent three hours watching another production of Xerxes only two days beforehand, this might sound surprising; but Stefan Herheim’s interpretation of Handel’s opera is an entirely different beast from Hampstead Garden Opera’s offering. Anarchic, exuberant and splendidly insane, this was more Carry On than Covent Garden.

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Stefano Landi: Il Sant’ Alessio (1632)

Landi: Sant' Alessio

(Théâtre de Caen, Les Arts Florissants with William Christie, 2007)

★★★★ ½

Over the weekend I treated myself to another opera DVD, this time one which transported me back to the very earliest days of the art form, to Rome in 1632. At this date the Counter-Reformation was in full swing and the Baroque was just coming into being. Gianlorenzo Bernini, who would become the supremo of 17th-century Rome, was 25 and had been asked to design the stage set for Stefano Landi’s new religious oratorio Sant’ Alessio. The production available on this DVD attempts to recreate the feel of that first performance and I admit I came to it with some trepidation. This all felt a very long way from the exuberance of the 18th century.

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