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

Reviewer (UK)

Canadian-born Mel Cooper first came to the UK to study English Literature at Oxford University and stayed. He was captivated by the culture and history of Britain, which he found to be a welcoming and tolerant country. After working in highly illustrated, non-fiction publishing for over a decade, he founded and edited the magazine Opera Now. Since then he has worked as a consultant to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, a broadcaster on British Satellite Broadcasting, a maker of audio shows and arts critic for several airlines, and as one of the team that started Britain’s first commercial classical music radio station, Classic FM, on which he was both a classical music DJ and creator and presenter of shows like Classic America and Authentic Performance. Throughout this period, he also lectured in music and literature in London and Oxford and published short stories in Canada. After working with the Genesis Foundation on helping to fund arts projects, he continues to write, review and lecture on music and literature. His first novel has just been published as an e-book. The title is City of Dreams. It is the first volume of a projected saga called The Dream Bearers. You can find the Kindle version of the book on Amazon.

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