MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Serse

In the mood to ignore this brutal Siberian cold spell and enjoy tonight’s Serse from 1738 (the Stefan Herheim production, conducted by Konrad Junghänel) at the Komische Oper.

Writes Richard Wigmore:

‘One of the worst that Handel ever set to music’, ran a contemporary verdict on the libretto of Serse, whose ‘mixture of tragic-comedy and buffoonery’ fazed London audiences in 1738. History, of course, has had its revenge. Today the very qualities that puzzled its original hearers – the lightly ironic, occasionally farcical tone, the fluid structure (many short ariosos, relatively few full-dress da capo arias) – have made Serse one of Handel’s most attractive operas for stage directors and audiences alike. There are episodes of high seriousness, above all in the magnificent sequence of Act 2 arias beginning with Serse’s aria di bravura ‘Se bramate’. But much of the invention has an airy melodiousness, whether in the dulcet minuet songs for the coquettish Atalanta, or Serse’s invocation to a plane tree, ‘Ombra mai fu’, immortalised and sentimentalised as ‘Handel’s Largo’.

 More background info here.

Complete Italian libretto here.

 

Filed under: Handel, Stefan Herheim

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