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Handel: Serse Box set

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Handel: Serse, HWV 40
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Product details

  • Performer: Anna Stéphany, Rosemary Joshua, David Daniels, Hilary Summers, Brindley Sherratt, et al.
  • Orchestra: Early Opera Company
  • Conductor: Christian Curnyn
  • Composer: George Frideric Handel
  • Audio CD (2 Sept. 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Chaconne
  • ASIN: B00E5NXR1M
  • Other Editions: Audio CD |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 111,648 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Digital Booklet: Handel: Serse, HWV 40
Digital Booklet: Handel: Serse, HWV 40
Album Only

Product description

Product Description

Handel's opera Serse is characterised by its ironic libretto, humorous situations, and high number of short arias. The main character is the unpredictably obsessive and volatile King Xerxes, a historical character who ruled the Achemenid Empire from 486 BC to 465 BC. The plot concerning the rivalry between Xerxes and his brother, Arsamene, for Romilda, however, is entirely fictional, as is the King's betrayal of his fiancé, Amastre.

The opera is based on a libretto adapted by the poet Silvio Stampiglia for Giovanni Bononcini, whose setting was staged at Rome's Teatro di Torre Nona in 1694. Handel completed his opera in 1738 in little more than a month. However, his typically swift pace and resourceful treatment of musical themes and models should not be misconstrued as complacency, carelessness, or low imaginative powers. The autograph manuscript reveals that Handel invested considerable skill in arias that are perfectly tailored to the dramatic storyline, many of which were meticulously crafted and then redrafted.

The opera was premiered at The King's Theatre on the Haymarket on 15 April 1738, but it only received five performances, which at the time ranked it as one of Handel's worst commercial failures. The opera was not performed again until Oscar Hagen's arrangement was staged at Göttingen in 1924, after which several productions in the USA and the UK followed. In recent times, the work has finally received the recognition it deserves, partly thanks to the uncut production, mounted at English National Opera to mark the composer's 300th birthday in 1985.

Serse is here performed by the Early Opera Company under Christian Curnyn, who won a BBC Music Award in 2013 for its recording of Handel's Alceste. They are joined on this recording by a host of excellent soloists including Rosemary Joshua in the role of Romilda, Anna Stéphany as Xerxes, David Daniels as Arsamene, and Hilary Summers as Amastre.

Review

For anyone wanting to acquire this jewel among Handel's later operas, this beautifully recorded new version is the one to go for. GRAMOPHONE CHOICE --Gramophone, Sept'13

Short arias and ironic and humorous asides add to the emotional variety of an unusual opera You only need listen to the first three tracks, including Ombra mai fu , the aria popularised by Kathleen Ferrier, to sense this is going to be an extremely classy account of a Handel opera. The remaining two and a half hours amply fulfil that promise, underlining Serse's reputation as a progressive score despite its relatively late (1738) place in Handel's operatic output. It is an unusual opera seria not just for its ironic and humorous asides, adding to the emotional variety of the music, but also for the number of short arias, many without da capos. Unlike most Handel operas, Serse doesn t need to be cut for modern performance. In the title role (Xerxes), Anna Stéphany can compete with the best of today's mezzos: she combines feeling, dignity, elegance. And with such polished Handelians as David Daniels, Hilary Summers, Brindley Sherratt and Rosemary Joshua in other leading roles, plus an enchanting young American soprano, Joélle Harvey, as Atalanta, this really is a baroque vocal feast. If the style element is slightly understated, that s because Curnyn shows such an easy command of the idiom: there is no aggressive accenting or exaggeration of tempo. ***** --Financial Times, 28/09/13

Serse (Xerxes) is unique among Handel's operas: fluid, often comic, fast-moving, deconstructing the conventions of serious opera with its interrupted arias. It needs a special light touch, and Christian Curnyn supplies that in abundance in this flowing, affectionate and beautifully shaped reading. The cast is superb throughout, from Rosemary Joshua's brightly focused Romilda, through Joélle Harvey's ethereal Atalanta (tingling in her Act 2 aria with its exquisite postlude), right down to Brindley Sherratt's blustering Ariodate. But it's Anna Stéphany's show: she sweeps all before her as a magnificent Serse. This is one of the most consistently satisfying current Handel opera recordings. --Observer, 22/09/13

Conductor Christian Curnyn's spry,supple reading effortlessly shadow