Revue Serse – a new ensemble brings circus and scissors to Handel’s Persian opera | Opera

Jit was the first opera of the new ensemble of period instruments Figureand it was presented as a semi-staged, description that did not do justice to Sam Raynerthe production. Who needed sets, when Rayner actually had six human sets to play with? And acting is the word: these six actors and acrobats moved often playfully, constantly changing the space and energy around the singers. One moment they were obsequious courtiers, then they formed themselves into a horse on which King Xerxes would ride, then they climbed on top of each other to become the plane tree, the unlikely subject of the king’s glorious first aria. Later came out a unicycle and a tightrope, and they were a private circus representing the desperation with which he was trying to impress poor Romilda. It was incredibly detailed stuff, intrinsic to the storytelling.

Avant-garde drama… Serse Photography: © Nick Rutter

It was not a full Serse performance: much had been cut, including the subplot involving the Forsaken Amastre, and although most Handel operas thrive on a degree of red-pencil, it seemed a little drastic, adding glitches in the musical flow and featuring an even lighter story than Handel’s, and a story that needed editing to pair Xerxes with a different woman. And so the sweet-sounding, awesome-sounding American mezzo-soprano Xerxes Cecilia Room found himself not with the absent Amastre but with Anna Cavalierois the soft-spoken but intriguing Atalanta. Meanwhile, Sarah Tynan and James Laing does moving and sometimes touching work of music for the ‘authentic’ couple, Romilda and Arsamene.

Figure founder, Frederick Waxman, conducted from the harpsichord. It’s a young orchestra, albeit with a few more experienced musicians, and a lack of long lyrical experience perhaps shown in a few messy corners, offset by the constant buoyancy of the playing. , borrowing Holland Opera Park‘s theater on what would have been a dark night – but Figure clearly has some great ideas, great musicians and great backing, so expect to see more.

About Roy B. Westling

Check Also

Ensemble Theater announces 2023 season

The Ensemble Theater kicked off its 2023 season, featuring 10 plays, including three world premieres …