Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Successful "Xerxes" Production Thrives at San Francisco Opera

Susan Graham (l) in the title role and Lisette Oropesa as Romilda in San Francisco (Photo: Cory Weaver)
"This seems to be San Francisco Opera’s season for premiering major operas of earlier centuries that it has heretofore overlooked. On the heels of its first mounting of Donizetti’s 1834 opera, Lucrezia Borgia, comes the first production of Handel’s 1738 opera Xerxes. Company General Manager David Gockley could not have assembled a finer cast, nor chosen a more consistently delightful production for an opera that SFO’s superb Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers considers one of Handel’s 'thorough masterpieces.' Director Michael Walling’s revival of Nicholas Hytner’s marvelous production, which won England’s Laurence Olivier Award in
David Daniels as Arsamenes (Photo: Cory Weaver)
1985 for 'Outstanding New Opera Production of the Year,' assigns Handel’s male castrato role of Xerxes to mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, and the female soprano role of Arsamenes (Xerxes’ brother) to countertenor David Daniels. It also brings to the fore the many camp elements of the convoluted plot, which seem right at home in David Fielding’s whimsical setting. The results seem ideal for Handel’s one and only operatic comedy....The cast and conducting are extraordinary. Graham, as gifted in Baroque coloratura as she is in Romantic lyricism, tosses off her many interpolated embellishments with the warm, seductive sound for which she is prized. Her instrument may not be ideally suited to Xerxes most furious outpourings — her smooth phrasing would ideally be more biting and brilliant — but her voice and artistic commitment sweep all before them. Daniels has an equally smooth, astoundingly fluent voice whose size is a fine match for Graham. As with many members of the cast, his embellishments bring out the craziness of the crazy libretto. Both stars invest their long-breathed, roller coaster lines with the surfeit of emotion essential to conveying their characters’ inner feelings." [Source]

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