Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|George Frideric Handel, William Christie, Anne Sofie von Otter|
Handel - Serse / von Otter, Norberg-Schulz, Piau, Zazzo, Tro Santafe, G. Furlanetto, Abete, Les Arts Florissants, Christie
Handel's Serse is mostly known today for (what is known as) its famous "Largo," (the aria "Ombra mai fu") which opens the opera and is a love song to a tree sung by our whimsical, bratty king Serse. The opera concerns Sers... more »
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Handel's Serse is mostly known today for (what is known as) its famous "Largo," (the aria "Ombra mai fu") which opens the opera and is a love song to a tree sung by our whimsical, bratty king Serse. The opera concerns Serse's falling in love with his brother Arsamene's fiancée Romilda immediately after hearing her sing--as well as the fact that Romilda's sister Atalanta loves Arsamene, and that Princess Amastre, who has been jilted by Serse, wanders through the opera dressed as a man wanting revenge against Serse. Throw a comic character, Arsamene's servant Elvino, and the pompous Ariodate (Romilda's and Atalanta's father) into the mix, and you've got a wry-but-moving tale. It's brightly performed here by the spectacular Anne Sofie von Otter in the title role, mezzo Silvia Tro Santafé a nicely offended Amastre; bass Anonio Abete brilliant as the wacky Elvino; and, most gloriously, countertenor Lawrence Zazzo as Arsamene. Not counting some mediocre singing by our Romilda, the others in the cast are worthy, and William Christie leads his grand band, Les Arts Florissants, in a lively, naturally paced, bristling-with-drama show. A fine performance of a great opera. --Robert Levine
The Best Serse
J. Luis Juarez Echenique | Mexico City | 01/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Anne Sofie von Otter launches splendidly this performance with one of the loveliest "Ombra mai fu" ever recorded. She is so good in the title role that even the excellent Carolyn Watkinson in the old CBS version is put in the shade; but there is much else that is wonderful here, Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz and especially Sandrine Piau sing like angels, and watch out for Lawrence Zazzo, one of the most promising young countertenors around, they all are ideal in their roles, giving characterful and lively performances. But it is the great William Christie and his matchless musicians who deserve the highest praise, they turn Serse which in the wrong hands can sound less than inspired, into a very beautiful score. The Malgoire recording is nowhere as well played, and the McGegan recording is nowhere as well sung.
This gets my vote as the best opera recording of 2004, followed closely by Alan Curtis Deidamia (Virgin)and Lotario (DHM). Handel was very lucky this year.
Wonderful live performance!!
Leila | SPAIN | 11/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I cannot compare with any other recording of this opera, since this is the first time I have heard it complete. I bought this because Von Otter is, for me, a guarantee of a good recording, good performance AND good acting. I must say this recording is better than I expected. You may not like live performances, but there's where you can tell if a singer is good or not or if you like him/her or not, better than in any studio recording.
I have two other Handel's operas with Von Otter in the cast, and they are superb and I highly recommend this trio : Serse, Giulio Cesare and Hercules.
Being a fan of Handel, I do hope Mr.Marc Minkowsky and Mr.William Christie keep up the good job of bringing back to life ALL Handel's operas with such good casts."
A Christie triumph
Mr Richard Fitzsimmons | Scotland | 10/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The competition for this recording is not exactly stiff. Malgoire's 1970s effort is a worthy complete recording with some superb singing from Carolyn Watkinson in the title role, though some less than distinguished singing from others. McGegan's recording had a ham-like David Thomas as Elviro, perhaps going a little further than taste demanded, and Judith Malafronte as a rather non-descript Serse.
This new recording from William Christie and Les Arts Florissants is a joy to savour and, although the booklet says it is a live recording, there is thankfully little off-stage interruption/noise, and few indications of audience participation unlike the recent Dynamic recording of Vivaldi's Rosmira Fedele, or even the Munich Serse on Farao.
The orchestral playing of Les Arts Florissants is impeccable, though Christie has not resisted temptation in beefing up the sting lines with anachronistic recorder lines. At least he avoided doubling everything with a chamber organ (Rene Jacobs take note). Christie has not always made the transition into Handel that easily - his Orlando was received in a lukewarm fashion I believe - but his sure touch is evident here in judiciously chosen tempi and his dramatic flare at just about all the right places.
As far as the singers go: Larry Zazzo is utterly convincing as Arsamene - heroic in Si la voglio, and a pathetic but still virile lover in some of Arsamene's more limpid music. His diction is superb, as is his sense of dramatic awareness - perhaps easier to put across here in a live performance. Antonio Abete is thankfully not a Ham as Elviro, although perhaps his descent into falsetto in the opening to Act 2 will wear after repeated listening. He is a good actor by all account, and the obvious enjoyment of this buffa role is more than adequately put across to the listener. Giovanni Furlanetto as Ariodate is a sure-footed general in the best traditions. Silvia Tro Santafe is a robust and fiery Amastre - the wronged betrothed of Serse. Sandrine Piau is a vixen-like Atalanta, and probably the best on disc so far. Her duet with Zazzo in act three fairly races along in a spectacular display.
As Serse, Anne Sophie von Otter has a much fresher sound than she did on Minkowski's Cesare (as Sesto) - perhaps it has something to do with being in the title role ? (see her Ariodante for Minkowski) She treats the classic opening to the opera with due reverance, and carries off the superb faster arias with minimal re-writes in the da capos, which perhaps makes them fresher given some of today's tendency to recompose. The only weak link, for me, is Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz as Romilda - I did not like her in Tamerlano and here she also sounds out of place - for me her voice just sounds too 'old' and heavy for the part of Romilda.
So, a superb all-round live recording which does much to cement Serse as a jewel in the current Handel firmament. If you only buy one Handel opera it has to be this one. Snap it up while you can.