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Barry Brenesal
Fanfare, January 2012

I find this a successful Serse…It’s definitely one of the better Handel productions that have been committed to DVD… © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Kirk McElhearn
MusicWeb International, September 2011

You may not be familiar with Handel’s opera Serse (Xerxes), but you will certainly recognize its first aria. The oft-recorded Ombra mai fu is a staple of recital albums and baroque best-ofs. Even though it’s a brief piece—just around three minutes long—it sets the tone for the rest of the work. In an interesting turnaround, most of the singers here are women; in Handel’s time, the female roles were sung by men, but here only two of the soloists are men (the baritone and bass). There are no counter-tenors for a change, with women playing the men’s roles of Serse and Arasmene.

Serse is full of wonderful music, and it’s Paula Rasmussen, as Serse, who shines in this performance. She stands out with both a wonderful voice, and an attractive stage presence. During the performances filmed, she gets applause several times after her numbers, showing that the audience in Dresden fell under her charm as well. Sandrine Piau is also excellent with some wonderful arias, and the rest of the cast is fine. The small orchestra—it looks to be about twenty musicians at most—is admirable, providing a clean, crisp sound.

The modernized staging is attractive, and is not a distraction, as is sometimes the case. The camera-work was well-judged, alternating often between tight shots and wider shots. The only negative about the production itself is the fact that it was filmed in 4:3 rather than in wide-screen format. It dates from 2000, when wide-screen filming was less common.

All in all, this is a fine two-and-a-half hours, with a wonderful cast led by Paula Rasmussen. Lovers of Handel operas will find this to be a delightful evening programme.

Giv Cornfield, Ph.D
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, October 2006

This splendid performance from the Semperoper in Dresden dates from June 2000, and was directed by Michael Hampe. It's one of Haendel's greatest masterpieces, and boasts a roster of five of Europe's best sopranos, all sailing with ease through the extreme demands Haendel set for them. The title role of Serse is brilliantly borne by the diminutive Paula Rasmussen, who is "on" nearly nonstop thoughout, yet shows no signs of flagging. Castrati were still in vogue in Haendel's time, which might explain the assigning of male roles to soprani; only two of the male roles are sung by men. Les Talens Lyriques is one of the top early music ensembles in Europe, and their performance under the direction of Christopher Rousset is exemplary. The only minor quibble I have is with the stage settings: this drama is set in Persian antiquity, during the invasion of Greece, so why are all the characters costumed like a bunch of Russian Czarist courtiers?

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5:38:13 PM, 10 October 2015
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