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Handel: Xerxes (Arthaus: 100077) [DVD] [2012] [NTSC]

Ann Murray , Lesley Garrett    Exempt   DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
Price: 24.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Handel: Xerxes (Arthaus: 100077) [DVD] [2012] [NTSC] + Handel: Rinaldo (Glyndebourne 2011) (Sonia Prina/ Varduhi Abrahamyan/ Tim Mead/ Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/ Robert Carsen/ Ottavio Dantone) (Opus Arte: OA1081D) [DVD] [2012] [NTSC] + Rodelinda [DVD] [2011]
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Product details

  • Actors: Ann Murray, Lesley Garrett, Valerie Masterson, Christopher Robson, Jean Rigby
  • Format: Classical, Colour, DVD-Video, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Arthaus
  • DVD Release Date: 27 Feb 2012
  • Run Time: 186 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B006ZV6XL8
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 30,775 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



The English National Opera has always had an attractively light touch in Handel; this classic production, designed by Nicholas Hytner (director of The Madness of King George and The Crucible), manages to preserve both the work's occasional passion and its undercutting of that passion into urbane absurdity. Anne Murray's Xerxes is a tyrant in love, who learns the hard way that he can neither play with, nor command, his subjects' affections; her forthright declamatory singing, not least in the famous "Larghetto", conveys both the petulance and the final grandeur of a man undergoing a sentimental education. Valerie Masterson and Christopher Hudson, as the principal pair of lovers, combine perfect singing with an attractive romantic ardour; Hudson in particular makes clear just how heroic a counter-tenor can sound, listened to without preconceptions. In the soubrette role of Atalanta, Lesley Garrett is a cute trouble-maker. Sir Charles Mackerras' conducting gives each of the genre arias of which the work consists both an appropriate intensity of emotion and an overall charm. The English libretto is by Hytner. The recording is decent PCM stereo and the picture, originally produced for TV broadcast, is in 4:3 ratio. --Roz Kaveney

Product Description

Serse / Xerxes

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful imaginative production 23 Dec 2008
This production is presented as if it were a live performance in (then) modern dress taking place more or less contemporary with this opera's composition in 1738. The action takes place in an imaginative re-creation of the Vauxhall pleasure gardens before a reproduction of the Roubiliac Handel statue that was completed in the same year.

I've given this DVD 5 stars for its entertainment value. The music, it goes without saying, is of very high quality even if it is not the very best Handel. The plot appears complicated on paper but it's perfectly sensible when it's set out before you on the stage. As to the performance... well the string sound is a little too modern for my liking, a little heavy with too much vibrato. Also the harpsichord used is much too heavy. It sounds like a modern revival style instrument to me, but it's not a serious defect overall. The tempi are well chosen, with a springy beat and a lively pace which perfectly suits this comedic, subversive and slightly satirical piece.

The singing and acting are outstanding. Christopher Robson is brilliant as Xerxes' brother Arsemenes, and Lesley Garrett is predictably winsome as Atalanta. But frankly it seems unfair to single anybody out from this outstanding cast.

I make no criticism at all of Rodney McCann in the minor role of Ariodate, but when I first saw this production on stage in the 1980's the great Norman Bailey sang this role and it is a shame that, given that his recorded legacy is so thin, he could not have been present on this occasion. How nice it would have been to have seen one of the great Wotans of the modern era recorded on the stage.

But the quibbles mentioned above are all very minor, and I certainly don't want to give the impression that this performance, production and recording are anything less than first class. This is an absolutely essential item in the DVD collection of anybody in the slightest degree interested in baroque opera.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great presentation of Xerxes by Handel 5 Feb 2012
After many years this production of Xerxes by Handel still has plenty to offer. Visually the production is very appealing. We are given the full opera as it would be presented on the stage and it is very much like actually being there. Of course there is the added bonus of the close up camera work. The set has moderate props and there is little scene change but the set is bright and colourful and the costumes are of equal interest. The acting is very good and the casting seems like a very good choice.
The actual opera is a long story but not over complicated. It is a love story with elements of humour.
There is romance and intrigue.

The score is typical Handel and there are wonderful moments of expression. The orchestra and Sir Charles Mackerras do a fine job with the score.
Lesley Garrett does a fine job with her expressive acting for her role as Atalanta. And the whole cast performs very well indeed.
Generally it is a good production. The picture and sound are fine. It is an old production originally for television but it still works well.
My only criticism is that the operatic singing has too much vibrato for my liking. It is a style of singing that will appeal to many people and that is fine but for me it sounds more like a 19th or 20th Century Opera than an early 18th. However it does not matter too much. And it won't bother most people. There are plenty of good points for me to say that this is a great production.

This was not one of Handel's most successful operas. But it is a force to be reckoned with. Handel shows great sense of peoples feelings. The story and the music cleverly show the depth of desire and the love and farce of the characters and their situation. The score is cheerful, playful and flirtatious.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic 10 Aug 2012
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I remember a production, in English, in the 1960s by the old Handel Opera Society with, among others, Owen Brannigan. It would have driven modern stylists to distraction. But even then, the rock solid theatricality of the score came across. I don't say a modern director couldn't ruin it, but he or she would have to work very hard to do so. Nick Hytner can rarely have had such an opportunity, and he takes it with sophistication and a sure sense of fun, which penetrate even the diction of his translation. By the time of this performance Mackerras's Handel style was one of the most reliable in the business, and he and Hytner clearly see eye to eye. This, not much more than forty years after the first experiments with staged Handel in the UK, presents his art as the equal of Mozart's. No allowances whatsoever need to be made. There are very few better opera videos.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost total joy 1 Oct 2005
Nicholas Htytner's 1985 production of Handel's Xerxes was a tremendous celebration for the Handel bicentenary and remains in the reperoire for 2005.

This 1998 recording of the original cast is not quite as blissful as the first run, but contains quite enough joy to make the purchase self-reccommending.

Best are Christopher Robson's Arsamenes, fluent and heroic, and Jean Rigby's Amastris, unforgettably beautiful of voice and person. Ann Murray's Xerxes is steely of voice but vivid of character and breath-taking in technical assurance, whlst Lesley Garrett's Atalanta has perky charm and a large dose of sheer bravura, even when the theatrical coyness grits the teeth.

The most sheerly beauitful singing comes (intermittently) from Valerie Masterson, who also looks ravishing as Romilda, although her tone at 52 is less reliably pure than the continuing precision of her technique. It is truly sad that the best work of this outstanding singer with the exception of Mireille and Gilda in Geneva (Semele at the ROH, Manon at ENO, Marguerite at the Paris Opera, Countess Almaviva at the Aix-en-Provence Festival and the Marschallin in Liège) was not preserved, but there are enough hints here to show what she was able to achieve to enable any imaginative viewer to enjoy a magical three hours or so.
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