[ Deutsche Grammophon / 3 CD Box Set ]
Release Date: Thursday 20 December 2018
The first recording of the opera with a countertenor in the title role! Serse is one of the most popular Handel operas; it is set in Persia (modern-day Iran) about 470 BC and is very loosely based upon Xerxes I of Persia. Serse, originally sung by a soprano castrato, is now regularly performed by a mezzo-soprano or countertenor.
The Italian libretto has a fascinating history, because it is based on one by Nicolò Minato from 1654 and was later adapted by Silvio Stampiglia (for an opera by Giovanni Bononcini in 1694). It is however unknown who eventually re-wrote the libretto for Handel. The three-act opera was premiered in London on 15. April 1738 at the Londoner Kings' Theatre and sadly had no success at all. After 5 performances they had to take it off the schedule and the opera was forgotten for almost 200 years! The famous opening aria, "Ombra mai fu", sung by Serse to a plane tree (Platanus orientalis), is one of Handel's best known melodies for its outstanding beauty.
Francesca Aspromonte appears courtesy of Pentatone Records
"I'd guess that a voice like Franco Fagioli's…comes as close as we can get today to the mingled brilliance, suppleness and power of the great castrati in their pomp… few if any falsettists today could match his combination of temperament and vocal glamour in this notoriously taxing part. The rest of the cast easily hold their own in vocal lustre and dramatic immediacy. [Il Pomo d'Oro's] eagerly responsive, high-octane playing underpins the whole performance." Gramophone Editor's Choice Feb 2019