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This review is from: Handel: Serse (Audio CD)
'Serse' is one of my favourite Handel operas, a largely comical opera with nevertheless some striking serious moments. Overall this recording from Christian Curnyn and the Early Opera Company is very good but, for me, concentrates too much on the serious and mostly fails on the comedy. The only singer who seems to convey the fun of the piece is Joelle Harvey as the flighty Atalanta. The title role of Serse is a ridiculously pompous and posturing figure with underlying glints of real cruelty. He has a splendid array of arias to sing from the languorous 'Piu che penso' to the hectic 'Crudie furie' and Anna Stephany sings very well - although she sounds older than she looks! The romantic pair are Arsamene, sung here by David Daniels (excellent but now facing serious competition from the dynamic younger generation of countertenors) and Romilda, sung by Rosemary Joshua. Joshua's voice does show signs of wear now but its still very lovely and she is still - by a long shot - my favourite Romilda on disc. The spurned lover Amastre is sung by Hilary Summers. I have enjoyed Summers' work before but I'm not fond of her here - Amastre needs a richer and more agile contralto and Summers sounds a little threadbare. Both baritones are good although its the first time I've heard the comic turn Elviro sung completely straight! The band are quite lightweight and although they play well and very 'tastefully', I would have preferred a little more 'oomph'.
None of the generally available recordings of 'Serse' are ideal in my opinion - they all have a couple of weak links. Nicholas McGegan's recording is probably my favourite overall, although in an ideal world I'd swap the terrible Jennifer Smith for Rosemary Joshua and (the not so terrible but not brilliant) Judith Malafronte for Anne Sofie Von Otter (on the William Christie recording). There are also a couple of very good DVD versions - I will always have a soft spot for the ENO version with Ann Murray but the rival Christophe Rousset version has a very good cast including the really splendid Paula Rasmussen in the title role. As for this recording by Curnyn and his forces, I think its worth a listen and I don't regret buying it but it would not be my first choice.