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An Irresistible First

Handel's 'Xerxes' in Wellington, New Zealand,
enjoyed by HOWARD SMITH


Xerxes I of Persia (born 519 BC, died 465 BC), also known as Xerxes the Great, was the fourth Zoroastrian king of kings of the Persian Empire.

More than 2,200 years later Handel wrote 'Xerxes', a droll eighteenth century take on love's stratagems and sibling rivalry in the Royal household of 5th century BC Ancient Persia; largely today's troubled lands of Iran and Afghanistan.

Indeed Handel is a clear winner in this opera; his capacity for a comedy of absurd foibles on stage and musical wit in the orchestral pit has few equals and dependable Handelian invention results in music of unalloyed pleasure. The more so in the company of superlative baroque guest ensemble Lautten Compagney, Berlin, under its co-founder director, Wolfgang Katschner.

Throughout Xerxes' final Wellington performance, the last in an Auckland/Wellington eight night season, the capacity audience was clearly 'bowled over' by the effervescent NBR New Zealand Opera (Victoria Opera, Melbourne) co-production; a first fully staged Handel opera for 'Kiwi' music lovers...

Copyright © 24 March 2011 Howard Smith,
Masterton, New Zealand






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