The Dresden “Serse” (2000) Liveblogging Thread

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Welcome to the White Shirt live comment thread for Handel’s “Serse” from Dresden (2000), conducted by Christophe Rousset and staged by Philip Behrens.

Cast List:
Paula Rasmussen – Serse
Ann Hallenberg – Arsamene
Patricia Bardon – Amastre
Marcello Lippi – Ariodate
Isabel Bayrakdarian – Romilda
Sandrine Piau – Atalanta
Matteo Peirone – Elviro

Libretto: Italian (pdf), Italian & English (pdf).

 

420 thoughts on “The Dresden “Serse” (2000) Liveblogging Thread”

  1. “King Xerxes, looking up from contemplation of his beloved plane tree, sees Romilda, the daughter of his vassal Ariodate, and makes up his mind to marry her. However Romilda and Xerxes’ brother, Arsamene, love each other, while Romilda’s sister, Atalanta, is also determined to make Arsamene hers. Amastre, Xerxes’ fiancée, forsaken by him for Romilda, disguises herself as a man and observes Xerxes”

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      1. I was trying to wrap my mind around Arsamene… – and I was thinking that this Romilda is also a heavier voice than you’d likely get in the part at the moment?

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          1. Dr T, we are surrounded by heathens!

            (I get what you mean, Agathe, but I think my brain sorts the pattern differently and doesn’t up quite there)

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      1. yeah, I was wondering. Perhaps to make Arsamene throw around looks?

        And this Serse is certainly a sly flox, too. Not much weight, but nice flow!

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            1. Yes, that was… an embarrassment of riches. And given the wildly off beard shadings of recent, I didn’t even mind the prop stache.

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            1. Nah, but they should have sponsored the telecast. Or complained that their logo was obscured under a ton of green fabric paint 🙂

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    1. who? Serse?

      sometimes i have disconnection between what she sings and her way of delivering (they’re very direct, just coming out, not quite the weight variation on the phrasing)

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        1. I keep wondering whether she is extremely well cast here and simply has a knack for this slightly blasé, smirky prowl attitude. Or whether she is a really good actress. Have we seen her in anything else?

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            1. Google lists classic trouser repertory, plus Elvira, but she has switched to a career in law, don’t know how long ago? She might have been off the circuit for a while.

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      1. works best when it’s smooth lines that don’t cross too much range and don’t require too much power/consonant shaping.

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            1. even on the very rare chance a singer might stumble upon the blog, I doubt they would read their way through some 200+ cryptic comments full of inside snark.
              And I don’t think it’s mean – it is a nice voice, just not that differentiated. And it is of course tough to be in direct comparison with Hallenberg, who is so exceptionally good.

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            2. ps- what i mean is you do say it as you hear it. and it takes a singer with multi-dimensions to bring out what A.Hallenberg just did (wow..) compared to just “sing” and act with eyebrows and eyes.

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    1. that aria in front of the tree would have fit her beautifully.
      But then of course we’d need a plot point that allows her to don Amastre’s outfit.

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    1. and she just stole Arsamene’s letter? Or Romilda’s answer?)
      Romilda has slight lag issues in the coloratura. (perhaps not an early music voice?) And Atalanta pulling faces is GOLD.

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  2. so…. oversized couch on loan from Così fan tutte, plus the scene dramaturgy, too?
    (at first I thought it was a bathtub… ah well)

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        1. no, that is not on Romilda, that is due to someone else who had os previously occupied. 🙂

          But it really has me thinking how leading lady casting in Handel has changed, and how much harder it has become to break in with so many voice specifically trained in that style, It’s not something you get to do on the side any longer, unless you’re in a smaller stadttheater that decided to do some Baroque

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      1. no, really not a contralto, after having heard that Agrippina, but the Agrippina tops were a bit limit, too. And the voice – has always been, I would say over this – never been interesting for smoothness/surface, but for color and approach.

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          1. like the low line on the first part of the aria here – she gets it with color, not with power, not even with the most comfortable seat. It flattens out at the very bottom. But she handles it very well.

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      1. it is time for the Betazoid Counselor to get really jealous (and threaten to call her mother) and complain about the perils of dating Klingons.

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    1. S: “Ha, You think Arsamene loves you, but he is actually into Atalanta! Why don’t you marry me instead?”
      R: “No, I cannot forget him! Unbreak my heeeeeaaaart.”

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            1. je.a.a.a..h.h. you know i am very interested!! very cool. i even liked her take a lot! i thought she was willing to make it “ugly” in the 2nd “A” and i preferred she took it much slooowly in “B”. and i love how JDD explained that “B” section because you can hear the emotion immediately!
              (you’re hiding this reply deeeep somewhere.. i have to dig and dig and dig to get here 😉 )

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            1. well, they did cut the next Romilda aria, they could have repeated that duet bit

              Oh, now Amastre seems kind of smitten with Romilda. And they mezzos get to do quite a lot of swordfighting in this one!

              And no Romilda thinks Mr. Amastre is gay and crying over Serse?

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      1. Serse whines on about how Romilda should marry him, and just as he corners her, Amastre jealously jumps in and says the King is a fraud. So Romilda now has diet on Serse, and immediately saves the warrior, and says Serse will agree. And Serse is mad he lost this discussion and storms off.

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    1. Romilda tries to stave off the wedding – first it was “but my father has to agree!” and Ariodate was all “Yay, we’ll be royals!” (though he believes it is about Arsamene), and now Romilda told Serse how she made out with Arsamene.
      Which only led to Serse sending order to Arsamene that he should commit suicide before Serse will marry Romilda.

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    1. so we can tell them apart better? or because the designer was bored?
      (nevermind Amastre’s tiara, is that a PLEATHER skirt?!)

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    2. Romilda stole the Emprio Armani store sign… Amastre the tiara… everyone else kileld a bird… Rousset… well, Rousset has some real hair here.

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    1. …what was your live impression on her phrasing? Did she work differently in the GLuck?
      (which reminds me of sopranos in GLuck, wait, where is my cutout,,,)

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      1. Actually DtO and I had a discussion about it! For a big part she was “burried” under the stage with only the head coming out, during the various episodes of “woah woah why are you not looking at me” and we thought she was at her best there. But at other times I wasn’t getting much impression.. the role Eurydice is also a bit tricky i think, lots of whining..

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      1. jeah, but that wouldn’t explain the stomping for Piau.. i did notice that was the case also when she was singing Arsace. I think her voice is very subtle. so if you haven’t geared up your ears to hear the nuances you will just catch the “front” sound = loudness that arrives.

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        1. I have yet to hear her live, she carries so exceptionally well on recording, without losing nuance… I am really curious about the live experience.

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          1. oh, you haven’t a chance to hear A.Hallenberg live? well that goes for me too until this year.. i guess that highlights even more the issues that they were just not casting her (as i have heard) simply due to her size, ignoring the incredible voice and vocal skill

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            1. in technique, she’s through the roof. And if it is not a voice size thing, then everyone is just plain stupid because she is amazing vocally, very expressive, and a good actress with a really good sense of timing,

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            2. (also, maybe, ‘make catty remarks on size when feeling petty about another majo house going the cis route’)

              (though I am wondering whether the problem is the houses, and not rather tour casting because shows often tour internationally with many stops. Who casts these things? Conductors? Agencies?)

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            3. No idea, I always thought conductors would decide, but probably the management of a venue or the ensemble in case of touring has a lot to say? And if marketing has decided that ‘this it’s how it’s ideally done today’, then even originally more neutral audience will in turn buy into that over time.
              And I think it’s also, ‘if you can’t have a CT in some roles, let it at least be played by someone looking the part?’ Like young, tall and boyish, but please not too masculine? Maybe this also plays a role in Crebassa’s success, in addition to great talent?

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            4. Policing women’s bodies by size and age is a constant, so CTs may play into it, but not cause it – and it will be interesting to see what happens when the first large generation of opera CTs ages out (or not).
              Then there is the 19th/20th ctry. related issue of women being allowed to be ‘masculine’ (or androgynous) when youthful and pretty, which does play e.g. In Crebassa’s favor. We might be mad on her account just as we are for Hallenberg if things were different.

              The casting… managements of ensembles and conductors, then? Well, in case of Cencic’s own company, it will be him, and I would assume he build up the business to give him and colleagues opportunities the market didn’t give him at that point. And he managed that and he is an influential factor now, which is impressive.

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            5. Impressive, and unnerving…
              (And of course it’s not Crebassa’s fault, and she is dealing so well with the ‘don’t you want to play a girl’ stuff)

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            6. yes, that makes it so difficult – the fault is never the individual singers and their talents, the fault lies with the system treating people differently (then again, every system comes down to people upholding it, so…) – Crébassa and Hallenberg are both insanely talented and great in technique and range. okay, they are not in the same generation, but they do have quite some repertory overlap. And who gets/got cast, and marketed/picked up by a label, and how… ?

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            7. Looking up operabase it has been quite a while since Hallenberg sang a trouser role in a staged version? She gets cast a lot but only in female roles, some of whom are supposed to be very young as well, so age as an explanation does not really make sense. But thinking of it, didn’t several Mezzos, including Kirchschlager and recently Garanca made a point of retiring trouser roles because they felt too old for them? Fits your point of young age being needed to excuse an androgynous appearance, even if it has nothing to do with a singer’s private appearance.

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            8. As long as it is a choice – but it absolutely should be a choice!
              Hallenberg, if I remember what Purity said correctly, also is cast a lot more in concert takes (and not stage productions).

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            9. Yes, lot’s of concert performances, but at least that does not keep her from acting (I really love her Marguerite alongside Spyres!).

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            10. Wrong size plus wrong gender plus wrong age, I’m afraid? It’s unbelievable how the physical impression of a singer is rated more important than vocal suitability for a role. And she is such a convincing actress!

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    1. good night to all of you. am off to get my milk tea to start the day.

      Thanks again Stray, for kicking start this! (Dehggi told me about it also a year ago.. but there’s time and place for things 🙂 )

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ps- and i just saw there’s a full 3-hr Serse with Malena Ernman…
    (and of course footage of ACA as Serse.. , oh, and there’s one with Coote.. let me check if there’s a full version of that..)

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        1. The Serse with Ernman I have in mind (it was on WSM, If I am nit mistaken) may have been 2011 – the other one 11/12, I think.

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  4. Looks like you had fun! A few thoughts in addition to responses I’ve inserted above:

    -I’m clearly in the minority in that Rasmussen was probably my favourite thing about the DVD. But that may have been because I was so thoroughly sold on her acting while I found most of the rest of the cast a bit stiff and “the director told me to move here so I’m moving”. Okay, yes, rather an unvaried vocal colour. But I liked her phrasing, maybe because it suited Serse’s unhinged personality?

    -I feel I must spring to the defense of fellow Canadian Bayrakdarian, whose singing on the DVD I rather enjoyed, especially Romilda/Amastre.

    -I *love* one of the Atalanta arias on the Christie CD (Piau again), and I think that was the one missing from this DVD. Pity.

    -Would anybody else be interested in watching the ENO ‘Serse’? Having already tried the ENO ‘Ariodante’ and ‘Julius Caesar’, I think I’d like the similarly-personneled ‘Serse’ better. Samples: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYNwg4ZZADY and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mkt64kycWS0

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    1. P.S. Re: “the director told me to move here so I’m moving”
      … for which I blame the director rather than the singers since it was so consistent. (And I’ve watched directors work with a fair number of actors and singers.)

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    2. -I feel I must spring to the defense of fellow Canadian Bayrakdarian, whose singing on the DVD I rather enjoyed, especially Romilda/Amastre.

      Yes, i greatly enjoyed this section too. I was curious why i heard her expression soo much clearer when she’s facing Amastre.. I think her first aria was somehow not “noticeable” for me, but the moment she met Amastre her phrasing changes (likely also the nature of the aria, etc.).. and then after that i heard her very well and expressive. And that duet with Arsamene was a true highlight. I was quite happy too that their voices balances, because originally i was worried that hers might mask A.Hallenberg’s voice.

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      1. Yes, the duet balance was really lovely. And I think I liked the later part of the evening more for Romilda because the first arias are lighter/more coloratura and then towards the end there is more fighting and languishing and for a voice her size, I found that the better fit – but that may just be my hearing. I still try to remember where else I have heard her because I remember her very positively from something bigger.

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            1. hmm, let me search… i was just searching for that famous duet.. there was a time that was the only “other” thing i knew about DonG, besides the bass aria “Don Giovanni…” at the end

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            2. not digitized, but I might have the actual DVD if it made the last move, I will check, unless someone knows/has another copy.

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        1. but that may just be my hearing
          No, not just your hearing, because i heard it too.. hence my comment that may be the “nature” of the arias has changed (since i don’t know much about music i can only tell when suddenly i can hear a singer well.. so your explanation makes sense to me. yesterday i rewatched, and again that first aria somehow really didn’t quite click for me..)

          Liked by 1 person

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