With his opera Xerxes, Handel was leaps ahead of his time, yet a few skips behind ours. When the opera opened in London in 1738, the atypical music and libretto were coolly received. The work, set in Persia around 486 B.C., languished until 1924, after which multiple productions have since taken place, surely none of them as sprightly as this current staging.
Stage director Tom Diamond has added a capriciously balletic Amore, a.k.a. Cupid, to guide us through the twists and turns of a tale of two brothers loving the same woman and two sisters loving the same man. Amore's presence is a brilliant stroke that fittingly interlaces with the absurdities of events, frailties of logic and depths and breadths of love.
While based on two known episodes in the life of King Xerxes, the rest of the events are purely fictional. But no matter, it's a universal story involving love and power, fickleness and miscommunications, luck and foolishness. When Romilda mocks Xerxes for his poetic musings about the plane tree (akin to our Sycamores), she sets into motion events that threaten not only her happiness and her life but that of her lover and a host of others.
How it all unravels is what delights, abetted by fine singing by seven leading characters, as well as excellent playing by an on-stage orchestra conducted by Gary Thor Wedow, an amazing set by Robert Perdziola with lighting by Patrick Mero and zestful choreography by Jacques Cesbron (danced and mimed expertly by a Ballet Theater soloist). By all means attend one of the remaining performances on Feb. 8 and 9.
[A+E] Classical Music
[A+E] Classical Music, Jazz + Blues + R&B