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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A showcase of baroque opera - not to be missed!
Let me confess that the cast, apart from the conductor Christophe Roussett and orchestra Les Talens Lyriques, is virtually unknown to me, though this performance was recorded in 2000:
Serse: Paula Rasmussen, American mezzo-soprano
Arsamene: Ann Hallenberg, Swedish mezzo-soprano
Amastre: Patricia Bardon, Irish mezzo-soprano
Ariodate: Marcello Lippi,...
Published on 20 Dec 2011 by Abert

versus
1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard going
I find it very hard to like this performance. I find the sound of the orchestra harsh on the ear. The production is impressive rather than beautiful. Several scenes start very hesitantly -as if the cast member were waiting for a piece of scenery to be fitted into place, which I guess could be the case. The audience has an annoying habit of starting to applaud an aria...
Published on 22 Nov 2009 by Mr. John Crompton


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A showcase of baroque opera - not to be missed!, 20 Dec 2011
Let me confess that the cast, apart from the conductor Christophe Roussett and orchestra Les Talens Lyriques, is virtually unknown to me, though this performance was recorded in 2000:
Serse: Paula Rasmussen, American mezzo-soprano
Arsamene: Ann Hallenberg, Swedish mezzo-soprano
Amastre: Patricia Bardon, Irish mezzo-soprano
Ariodate: Marcello Lippi, Italian baritone
Romilda: Isabel Bayrakdarian, Canadian soprano
Atalante: Sandrine Piau, French soprano
Elviro: Matteo Peirone, Italian bass
Of the entire cast, Peirone and Lippi are veterans. From North America, we have two lead singers in the respective roles of Serse and Romilda.
The entire cast is very even and highly effective, with Paula Rasmussen standing out in the title role of Serse.
If numerous singers: mezzos, baritones and countertenors alike, have attempted the opening aria 'Ombra Mai Fu', very few countertenors have attempted the entire role of Serse. And it is easy to see why.
Rasmussen sung the title role heroically, and acted impeccably. Her timbre is full and sweet, and most importantly, possesses a real depth required of this role. The final Act and opening Act contrasts greatly in terms of temperament of which she managed with exceptional competence and beauty, and in the middle section, the duet between Serse and Romilda demands a dramatic pull off that Rasmussen tackles brilliantly. In this respect, predecessor Maureen Forrester really failed to score a higher mark owing to innate edginess in the timbre, though the size of her voice is equally full and resonant.
As Serse's 'love', Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian is adequate, but lacks the vocal beauty to convince the audience that she is the person that charms Serse out of his senses (do compare Lucia Popp singing under the direction of Priestman in the early 1960's).
Another outstanding portrayal comes from the Ann Hallenberg, portraying Arasmene, the brother of Serse and lover of Romilda. Hallenberg's timbre as not as suave as Rasmussen's, yet in terms of expressiveness and agility, she is on par. Her Arasmene is fully convincing.
Sandrine Piau should, as far as the performance here goes, be casted as Romilda for her vocal capability and acting skills. As Atalanta, she upstages the heroine considerably both by her singing and stage presence.
The two male roles are very effectively tackled, and should under no circumstances be ignored.
Last but not the least, Roussett led a tremendously energised team of musicians, and his pacing is both musically alert and dramatically brilliant.
In short, this is a first class barqoue operatic performance.
A real shame that Paula Rasmussen has since became an attorney in USA and given up operatic performances
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb - the best Serse, 7 Mar 2007
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This is an amazing performance. There are no weak links. A consumate piece of art, with excellent soloists, ensemble work and orchestral playing. A totally satisfying production. Well done all concerned!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable with improved processing from the Euroarts re-issue, 12 April 2012
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This 2000 production of Handel's late comic opera, Serse, is very enjoyable and scores highly on several counts. The setting is in an indeterminate previous age but incorporates some modern props (umbrellas and clothing details) and humour (especially between a very funny Sandrine Piau and Romilda). As the story is one of complete fantasy it seems reasonable for the production to also have elements of fantasy about it. The colour scheme concentrates on monochrome only gradually introducing colour as the opera progresses and this is intended to tie in with the opera moving from dark to light.

The production benefits from fine authentic orchestral support conducted with proper Baroque insight by the experienced Christophe Rousset. This familiarity of style is apparent from the very beginning of the overture.

The comically competing roles of Atalanta and Romilda are excellently portrayed as well as being finely sung. This humour is vital to the success of the story and can be sampled in the sparring (tracks 19-20) between Atalanta, sung by Sandrine Piau, and Romilda, sung by Isabel Bayrakdarian. It would be hard to imagine this being done with more relish or accuracy than here. In particular, Sandrine Piau seems to be an absolutely natural comedienne and her performance here has considerable parallels with her amusing role of Wanda in Offenbach's Grande-Duchesse de Gerolstein. The other lightweight comic role of Arsamene's servant Elviro is also managed well by Matteo Peirone who keeps the humour from dragging and keeps the plot on the move.

The trouser roles of Serse (Paula Rasmussen) and Arsamene (Ann Hallenberg) are also as well sung as can be expected from such experienced singers. The supporting role of Ariodate is also satisfactory.

The non-singing roles of the servants are portrayed in a stiff and stylised manner but the crowd scenes/chorus are a little more animated. To be fair, Handel has given very little to any of these to do other than to be present and provide a backdrop to the main characters so it is difficult to imagine any alternative that would not be distracting to the focus on the main roles. Handel abandoned operas shortly after this and turned his attention to oratorios which proved to be an astute move.

The stage lighting in this production is often very contrasty, emphasising the largely monochrome colour scheme with resultant somewhat severe highlights competing with dark shadows. This caused problems of over-harsh and sharp imaging on the original TDK disc but the imaging has now been successfully re-processed by Euroarts and the problem has been greatly reduced to an acceptable level. The actual image shape is 4:3 which is not in itself impossible, but seems below expectations for the recorded year when a full screen image was becoming more the norm.

The sound is presented in good and clear DD 5.1 and stereo and is fine but with the following proviso: The opening aria (Serse) is impossibly loud if the orchestra's level is previously set normally for the overture. Curiously, by reducing the volume accordingly at this first aria point, from then onwards all is well!

I still find this an enjoyable recorded experience, largely because of the interplay between the comic characters and the other roles as appropriate. Sandrine Piau rather steals the show as Atalanta and this is reflected in the final curtain call applause. In summary this is a strongly sung and acted performance by the character roles and the production allows the comedy element to be genuinely amusing. The recording is good sonically but it is a shame that visually the imaging is a 4:3 although the small stage and limited lighting makes this far less obvious than it might have been.

My original review of the TDK disc reduced the basic 4 star grade to 3 because of processing problems leading to problems with contrasty imaging reproduction. The new Euroarts issue has resolved these processing problems so I suggest that reverting back to 4 stars is a fair level for the new improved Euroarts disc.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very beautiful, 20 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Handel: Serse [DVD] [2005] [2011] (DVD)
This is one of the last operas of Handel in Italian, before he switched to English oratorio. In my view, this is one of the best operas of Handel, with a very fine sense of humour. This version is also the better one of the two on DVD. Most beautiful music, excellent acting and singing, the staging is adapted and well-conceived. The booklet is also useful. The 4:3 ("old television") format is however outdated for a recording of the year 2000.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unrivalled performances, 1 Feb 2013
By 
Marcolorenzo (Italy) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Superb singing, acting, and conducting, a classic. This is the best DVD of the work. It will be a long time before this production is exceeded on a musical level. The settings and the costumes make reference to the turn of the 19th century Turkish Ottoman empire. It works to an extent, although the gray and black tonalities have made the job of the costumer and set designer easier, they do not add anything to the musical work. And if the sets and costumes are from 19th century Turkey then Serse is not Serse (4th century B.C. Persian) and this is disturbing also. But there is grandeur (flags waving, a triumphal entrance on a baby elefant sculpture at the celebration of the battle victory scene, etc.) and elegance as well as interesting dramatic stage movement. A tradional performance shifted in time to the Ottoman Empire with superb singing on everyone's part. Recommended. Although listed as not currently available the same production is available in a different package:Handel: Serse [DVD] [2005]
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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard going, 22 Nov 2009
By 
Mr. John Crompton (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I find it very hard to like this performance. I find the sound of the orchestra harsh on the ear. The production is impressive rather than beautiful. Several scenes start very hesitantly -as if the cast member were waiting for a piece of scenery to be fitted into place, which I guess could be the case. The audience has an annoying habit of starting to applaud an aria when the conductor has moved on to the next piece of music. None of the singers were ones I would go out of my way to hear again. All in all this performance failed the crucial test of whether it increases my appreciation of a great work.
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Handel: Serse  [DVD] [2005] [2011]
Handel: Serse [DVD] [2005] [2011] by Philip Behrens (DVD - 2005)
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