Longborough’s new young stars give challenging performances in a brilliant Handel opera coming to London and Hastings.


Many years ago, Charles Mackerras showed us in his Xerxes at the ENO that Handel’s operas are simultaneously serious without being solemn, and full of laughs while still being emotionally engaging and potentially moving. Every year the Longborough Festival does a production that gives young stars of tomorrow a platform or, in some cases, springboard; and this year they have chosen Xerxes to continu that tradition; and for the first time ever, I believe, they are touring the show after its Longborough performances to the Britten Theatre at the RCM in London (July 30) and then to St Mary in the Castle, Hasting (2 August).

The Longborough performances are already sold out. Visiting Longborough must be a bit like experiencing Glyndebourne in its very easliest days when it was just getting started, so it is a shame you probably cannot get tickets there this year any more. But they also have developed a reputation for strong productions and fine musical performances. So I recommend you try to book London or Hastings if you are interested in Handel or in up-and-coming musicians.

The production promises to be both innovative and interesting; the conductor is the inestimable Jeremy Silver; and the poster boy of the show is a young singer named Jake Arditti who will take on the counter-tenor role of Xerxes. An opera about love and power, Xerxes is also a deeply complex comedy of manners and emotional chaos; and has one of the acknowledged great scores by handel. Counter tenors tend to mature into their fach early and Arditti has returned for this opera to Longborough after a major success in last year’s Rinaldo. He is a fine actor as well as being a superb singer; and if you attend you will get to hear him make love to a tree early on! How’s that for irresistible? The cast is a strong one and with Jeremy Silver in the pit, it should be a memorable evening.

For further information and booking go to: www.lfo.org.uk/xerxes/

About The Author

Profile photo of Mel Cooper

Canadian-born Mel Cooper came to the UK to study at Oxford and stayed, captivated by the culture and history of the welcoming and tolerant society of Britain. He founded the magazine Opera Now. He was a consultant to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, a broadcaster on British Satellite Broadcasting and a member of the team that started Classic FM on which he broadcast shows like Classic America and Authentic Performance. After working with the Genesis Foundation on helping to fund arts projects, he continues to write, review and lecture on music and literature.


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