<< -- 3 -- Robert Hugill HANDELIAN METAL
Ultimately, of course, we were here to see Anne Sophie von Otter. Christie had succeeded in assembling a fine, balanced cast around her, with no weak points. But, as Handel would have understood, we wanted to hear the star. She gave us a brilliant, capricious Serse, always a King, always keeping his subjects on the hop. In Serse's bigger arias von Otter showed her Handelian metal, but she was encouraged by Christie to be rather too self-indulgent with the cadenzas. What I missed, in the end, was the sense of dangerous irrationality in Serse. After all, the plot is pretty close to that of Tamerlano except with jokes and without the suicide. But von Otter's Serse ultimately lacked that same sense of danger; the feeling that one false step and you will be sent to the dungeon.
William Christie is a fine Handel stylist though I was surprised he did not direct from the harpsichord as Handel would have done. He is a very interventionist conductor in this music and I did not always like the way he man-handled the music. But faced with such brilliant drama and music making, who could really complain. The performance was received by the audience with great enthusiasm, despite over-running by twenty minutes. Christie and his well-selected cast (all vocally and physically suited to their roles) gave us an evening without longeurs that made four hours seem too short.