Stefan Herheim's new production of Handel's Serse opens tonight at the Komische Oper Berlin (sung auf Deutsch as Xerxes). Designed in the now-familiar mix of periods and styles, it incorporates baroque style flat sets, neon signs, blokes dressed as sheep and possibly more cross-dressing than strictly required. Scroll down to see how he tackles Ombra mai fu.
Xerxes - English Touring Opera - Britten Theatre, 8 October 2011
Xerxes (aka Serse) is not one of Handel's easiest operas to stage - or to love. The insufferably pompous hero is hard to warm to, and his improbable volte-face at the neatly happy ending sets new standards for implausibility in baroque opera.
English Touring Opera's solution is to capitalise on the comic elements. A Battle of Britain airbase stands in for ancient Persia. King Xerxes is a plucky pilot who conveniently forgets he's already been promised to a foreign princess when he falls for his brother Arsamene's girlfriend, a nurse. He sings his opening aria Ombra mai fu beneath a plane of the Spitfire variety, and Nicholas Hytner's English translation ensures a dashed jolly good time is had by all.