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Updates from the 2011 Artistic DirectorElisabeth EastherSchools Review CompetitionReviews
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Ravishing Xerxes Starts Arts Festival

By - 3 Mar 2011
"With Trelise Cooper as costume designer, Xerxes should have been an overblown baroque folly. But it isn’t. The costumes, like the opera, are a balance of the ravishing and the refined."

By John Daly-Peoples
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The whole opera has a stylish sophistication, taking its lead from the formal elegance of Handel's music

As with many of his operas Handel manages to cram a lot of subplots into his comic tale about love and jealousy.

Even though it is a comic work there are some serious elements to it not the least that this is set in Persia which then encompassed the whole of the Middle East, from India to Greece and Xerxes does keep his eye on invading Western Europe.

Xerxes the Persian king is in love with Romilda, a general's daughter. Fortunately for the story so is his brother Arsamene and Romilda also loves Arsamene.

However Romilda's sister Atalanta also loves him. The other problem is that Xerxes is actually engaged to Amastre who is bent on revenge.

The notion is that men and women have a major weakness and they can  be captured and diverted by love and jealousy.

The counter tenor Tobias Cole as Xerxes gave a stunning performance in the demanding role with some of his big arias receiving well deserved applause.

"The other counter tenor William Purefoy singing the role of Arsamene was the standout performer. His less dramatic but beautifully nuanced voice was enhanced by his impeccable acting, turning even the slightest movement into a meaningful gesture

Tiffany Speight as Romilda was captivating with a sparkling voice which conveyed both love sick yearning and rage.

Amy Wilkinson as Atalanta gave a gutsy performance as the woman who finds herself always left on the shelf and the trouser role of Amastre who stalks the stage wassung by Kristen Darragh with a brooding intensity.

Martin Snell's General Ariodate presented a strong  character with a couple of well judged arias while Stephen Bennett gave some fine comic relief as Elviro.

The set designed by John Verryt and lighting by Matt Scott brilliantly fuse together to create changing moods

Handel's glorious music is superbly played by the Lautten Compagny under the direction of Wolfgang Katschner. They allow the music to become virtually a character within the opera adding to the overall emotional texture.

It's an opera in which Handel seems to build on the early operas of Monteverdi as well as looking forward to Mozart while referring John Gay's comic opera "The Beggars Opera" of 10 year earlier."


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