Xerxes

Handel - Autumn 2011

A new production of Handel’s comedic masterpiece set in 1940 during the Battle of Britain.

Conductor 
Jonathan Peter Kenny
Director 
James Conway
Designer 
Sarah Bacon
Lighting Designer 
Kevin Treacy

Xerxes is one of Handel’s celebrated masterpieces. Unusually, it is a comedy in the Venetian style, with many short arias (including the well known Ombra mai fu, a song dedicated to a tree!) and ensembles, and a number of comic characters – but with all the trials of love and jealousy vividly described.

This new production – in Nicholas Hytner’s stylish English translation – recasts the Persian king as a glamorous prince-turned-pilot in the Battle of Britain, jealous of his brother’s stronger sex appeal.

Laura Mitchell (ETO’s recent Countess in The Marriage of Figaro) plays Romilda, the society girl who entertains the forces and the errant prince Xerxes (Julia Riley, ETO’s much-praised Sextus in La clemenza di Tito). Jonathan Peter Kenny promises to deliver a lively reading of Handel’s splendid score, with ETO’s Old Street Band.

New production
Sung in English
Running time: 2 hours and 45 minutes (including interval)
Pre-show talks before all shows (except Exeter, 18 Nov and Malvern, 24 Nov): contact the venue for more information about time and location and to book.

Generously supported by the ETO Xerxes Syndicate

The story

Click here to read a plot summary of the opera.

The music

Click through to listen to a sample of music from Handel’s Xerxes.

Or listen to the complete recording on Spotify. (Not on Spotify? Click here to join for free)

Interviews, videos and trailers


Production trailer by Nick Howard

BBC Radio 3 In Tune: Xerxes by English Touring Opera
Courtesy of BBC Radio 3 In Tune. All rights reserved.

Festival tips and local secrets

We are sure that in between performances you will be keen to get out and about and make the most of what the places we are touring to have to offer. With this in mind, we have compiled guides to some of this season’s towns and venues, listing places to go, attractions to visit and tips on where to eat and shop. Enjoy your stay!

What the papers say

“Covent Garden would count itself lucky to host a baroque show of this calibre.” (5 STARS) The Independent

“A production that takes flight in more ways than one.”
(4 STARS) What’s On Stage

“Musically gripping from take-off to landing.” The Guardian

Showing At

  1. Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, London
    8th Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm
  2. Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, London
    10th Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm
  3. Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, London
    13th Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm
  4. Buxton Opera House
    21st Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm
  5. West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge
    26th Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm
  6. Theatre Royal, Lincoln
    31st Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm
  7. Harrogate Theatre
    5th Nov 2011 - 7:30 pm
  8. Snape Maltings Concert Hall
    12th Nov 2011 - 7:30 pm
  9. Exeter Northcott Theatre
    18th Nov 2011 - 7:30 pm
  10. Exeter Northcott Theatre
    19th Nov 2011 - 7:30 pm
  11. Malvern Theatres
    24th Nov 2011 - 7:00 pm
  12. Malvern Theatres
    25th Nov 2011 - 7:30 pm
  1. Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, London — 8th Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm

    Prince Consort Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2BS

  2. Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, London — 10th Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm

    Prince Consort Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2BS

  3. Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, London — 13th Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm

    Prince Consort Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2BS

  4. Buxton Opera House — 21st Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm

    Water Street, SK17 6XN

  5. West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge — 26th Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm

    11 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DP

  6. Theatre Royal, Lincoln — 31st Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm

    Clasketgate, Lincoln, LN2 1JJ

  7. Harrogate Theatre — 5th Nov 2011 - 7:30 pm

    Harrogate Theatre, Oxford Street, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 1QF

  8. Snape Maltings Concert Hall — 12th Nov 2011 - 7:30 pm

    Aldeburgh Music, Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Snape, Suffolk, IP17 1SP

  9. Exeter Northcott Theatre — 18th Nov 2011 - 7:30 pm

    Exeter Northcott, Stocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4QB

  10. Exeter Northcott Theatre — 19th Nov 2011 - 7:30 pm

    Exeter Northcott, Stocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4QB

  11. Malvern Theatres — 24th Nov 2011 - 7:00 pm

    Malvern Theatres, Grange Road, Malvern, Worcestershire, WR14 3HB

  12. Malvern Theatres — 25th Nov 2011 - 7:30 pm

    Malvern Theatres, Grange Road, Malvern, Worcestershire, WR14 3HB

Jonathan Peter Kenny

Jonathan Peter Kenny

Conductor

Jonathan Peter Kenny is from Liverpool. Conducting appearances include Flavio, Xerxes, Agrippina, Ottone, Iphigénie en Tauride, Giulio Cesare, Johannes-Passion, Mass in B minor, Matthäus-Passion (ETO), Cesare, Rinaldo, Radamisto, Alcina, Serse (Lucca),The Duchess of Malfi (Royal and Derngate), Stabat Mater (Dorothy Cross/OTC), Orfeo, Dido (RCM), Anxiety Fanfare (Kings Place, RFH), Memorial (London Barbican, Adelaide Festival, Brisbane Festival). He has performed with ROH, ENO, Glyndebourne, Salzburg Festival, Royal Opera Copenhagen, Teatro comunale Bologna, Glimmerglass NY, BBC Proms, AAM, OAE, EBS, RLPO, RSNO, UO, Gabrieli Consort, with Gardiner, Hickox, Fischer, Parrott, Mortensen, Bolton, and Bicket. Recordings include: Matthäus-Passion (Miller/Goodwin), Agrippina (Gardiner), Buxtehude Cantatas (Immerseel), Puccini Requiem (Fontaine). His edition of Handel’s Tamerlano has been produced in Dublin, Melbourne, Lisbon, and London.

James Conway

James Conway

Director

As General Director of ETO for 17 years and ETO’s Artistic Director since April 2019, James Conway has directed productions of operas by Monteverdi, Handel, Mozart, Donizetti, Janácek, Puccini, Debussy, Ullmann, Britten and Tippett, as well as a world premiere by Alexander Goehr. Before coming to ETO he was General Director of Opera Theatre Company in Dublin; his productions for that company travelled to New York (Brooklyn Academy of Music), and to festivals in Melbourne, London, Buxton, Paris, Dusseldorf, Prague, Brno, Lisbon and Porto. Notable among his freelance directing is the long-running production of The Cunning Little Vixen at the Janácek Theatre, Brno.

Sarah Bacon

Sarah Bacon

Designer

Sarah studied Architecture at University College Dublin, and 3D Design at Brighton University. She trained in Theatre Design at Motley. In 2009 she was a Linbury Prize finalist, and Jerwood Young Designer. Designs for opera include The Raven (Arcola, King’s Head); Phillip Glass’ Les Enfants Terribles (UK premiere); The Rape of Lucretia (Arcola); La Clemenza di Tito and Susannah (Hampstead Garden Opera); La Tragedie de Carmen (English Touring Opera); Xerxes (Opera Theatre Co.); Suor Angelica, La Voix Humaine, Il Signor Bruschino, Rita, (all Wexford Festival Opera). Theatre includes Medea (The Gate/Headlong); Present Tense (Southwark Playhouse); Still the Blackbird Sings (Derry Playhouse); Starvin’ (Fitzgerald & Stapleton); costume/prop design for The Rehearsal: Playing the Dane (Pan Pan Theatre Co, Dublin Theatre Festival 2010).

Kevin Treacy

Kevin Treacy

Lighting Designer

Kevin’s designs include The Shawshank Redemption (Wyndhams Theatre, West End); The Nose (The Performance Corporation – winner for Best Lighting Design, Irish Times Theatre Awards for 2008); Dr. Ledbetter’s Experiment (Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Kilkenny Festival); The Yokohama Delegation (Kilkenny Festival); Drive-By (Dublin Fringe Festival and Canterbury Festival); This is our Youth (Bedrock Productions); Il barbiere di Siviglia, Don Giovanni, Rigoletto, Hänsel und Gretel, Les contes d’Hoffmann, Il viaggio a Reims, Pagliacci, The Medium and Suor Angelica (Wexford Festival Opera 2002-2008); La Tragédie de Carmen (WFO and ETO – nominated Best Opera, Irish Times Theatre Awards 2007); The Little Magic Flute (ETO and OTC); The Kiss, Hänsel und Gretel, Il barbiere di Siviglia and Xerxes (OTC).

Cast

Clint van der Linde

Clint van der Linde

Counter tenor

Arsamenes

Clint’s opera and concert work has taken him to Australia, NZ, SA, US, Israel, Japan and through out Western and Central Europe. In Festivals including BBC proms (Royal Albert Hall), Mostly Mozart Festival at the Alice Tully Hall(NYC), Bach Festival Leipzich, Wellington Festival(NZ) and Edinbugh Festival. Collaborating with the AAM, The Goettingen Festspieler Orchestra, Il Fondamento, the Hanover Band, the Israel Camerata, the King`s Consort, the LHO, LMN, the OAE, the RPO the Salzburg Camerata, Stuttgart Baroque Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Bach Collegium Japan. Conducters, Masaaki Suzuki, Stephen Layton, Sir Roger Norrington, Frieder Bernius, Nicholas Kraemer, Stephen Cleobury, Peter Schreier, Wolfgang Katchner, George Petrou, Leonardo Alarcon and Paul Dombrecht.

Rachael Lloyd

Rachael Lloyd

Mezzo soprano

Amastris

British mezzo-soprano Rachael Lloyd continues to enjoy success in the UK and is establishing herself as an artist in Europe. Recent highlights include Mrs. Anderssen in Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music at Paris’ Chatelet Theatre, alongside Leslie Caron; Maddalena in Rigoletto with Iford Arts and a concert of Trois Poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé by Ravel with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2009, Rachael sang Cornelia in Giulio Cesare at Glyndebourne Festival Opera and the role of Meg Page in Glyndebourne Touring Opera’s production of Verdi’s Falstaff.
Rachael Lloyd has sung with Glyndebourne Festival Opera since her debut with Glyndebourne on Tour singing the role of Shelley in Tangier Tattoo in 2005. Rachael understudied the roles of Orlofsky in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus (Glyndebourne Festival 2006) and more recently, the role of Ottavia in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea (Glyndebourne Festival 2008). In 2007, Rachael understudied both the role of Suzuki in Raymond Gubbay’s production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and the role of Sara in Buxton Festival Opera’s production of Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux. During the same season at Buxton, Rachael performed the role of Blanche in Offenbach’s Bluebeard. Rachael understudied the role of Martina Laborde in Glyndebourne Festival’s Summer 2008 production of Love and Other Demons by Peter Eotvos.
Rachael sang the mezzo-soprano solos in the premiere of Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace in the Royal Albert Hall in 2000 and made her BBC Proms debut in 2002 singing the role of the Queen in Mendelssohn’s Elijah, conducted by Kurt Masur. As a recitalist, Rachael was recently invited to give a recital at the Lille Opera House, France, where she performed Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Elgar’s Sea Pictures. Rachael is featured on a recording of works by Claudio Monteverdi, Giulio Caccini and John Dowland with La Nuova Musica.
This season Rachael made her German debut in the title role of Dido and Aeneas for TPT Theater Thüringen in Gera and future plans include her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Rossini’s Stabat Mater and Schubert’s Kantata D472 with the Ulster Orchestra.

Nicholas Merryweather

Nicholas Merryweather

Baritone

Elviro

Sheffield born, Nicholas Merryweather studied at the Musikhochschule in Cologne and on the opera course at GSMD. He was a recipient of the ETO Chris Ball Bursary in 2011 and the 2008 Glyndebourne Wessex Award. Nicholas’s operatic roles include Don Giovanni, Papageno The Magic Flute and Mozart’s Figaro (LFO); Don Polidoro The Italian Girl in London (Buxton Festival); Cassandro La Finta Semplice for Bampton Classical Opera; Blazes The Lighthouse, title role Fantastic Mr Fox, Marco Gianni Schicchi (ETO). Concert engagements include Bach with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Northern Sinfonia and Handel with the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra and Hallé Orchestra.

Laura Mitchell

Laura Mitchell

Soprano

Romilda

Ms Laura Mitchell will sing the role of Tosca on 9 March (London), 25 March (Bromley), 30 March & 1 April (Snape), 8 April (York), 11 April (Wolverhampton), 13 April (Leicester), 22 April (Cheltenham), 25 & 29 April (Cambridge), 2 May (Guildford), 5 May (Buxton), 9 May (Coventry), 13 (Canterbury), 27 May (Exeter), 29 May (Truro), 2 June (Norwich), 5 June (Stoke) and 10 June (Blackpool).

Born in Hertfordshire, Laura studied at the Royal College of Music where she gained a first-class honours degree and postgraduate diploma. She then joined the Benjamin Britten International Opera School, studying with Lillian Watson. In 2007, she won the Song prize at the Kathleen Ferrier Awards and the Lies Askonas Prize. Laura attended the National Opera Studio during the 2007/08 season.

While at the NOS, Laura took part in residencies at WNO, Scottish Opera, Theatre Royal and Opera North, singing Illia/Idomeneo, Helena/A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Donna Elvira/Don Giovanni, Leila/The Pearlfishers. Other operatic roles include Countess Almaviva/Le nozze di Figaro and Elisa/Tolomeo for BBIOS, Aldimira in Cavalli ‘s Erismena, First Witch/Dido and Aeneas, Ninfa and Proserpina/Orfeo (cover), all for English Touring Opera. More recently, she appeared at Scottish Opera in Smetana’s Two Widows, covering the role of Lidka.

Concert work includes Tippett’s Spirituals and Rutter’s Requiem at St.John Smith Square, Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate and Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras no 5 with the Emerald Ensemble at Bristol Cathedral, Bach’s B Minor Mass at St John Smith Square, Haydn’s Nelson Mass with Sir David Willcocks, Handel’s Messiah at Kings College Cambridge with Stephen Cleobury,Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate with the London Pro Arte Orchestra in Denmark and Strauss’ Four Last Songs at the Hatfield Auditorium, conducted by Peter Stark.

In 2007/08, Laura sang Bach’s St. John Passion with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Mark Padmore at the QEH in London, which was followed by a tour through South Korea and Japan.
As a recitalist she has performed at the Teatro dei Rozzi Siena, the St.Peters Basilica Rome as well as the Purcell Room, Wigmore Hall, St Martin in the Fields, St.James’ Piccadilly, and the Windsor, Chester and Beaumaris Festivals.
She has taken part in master classes with Robin Stapleton (Amici di Verdi) and with Roger Vignoles at the Leeds Lieder Festival.

Her most recent appearances include Bach’s St Matthew Passion at the Royal Festival Hall with Mark Padmore and the OAE, recitals for the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, Ismene/Mitridate for WNO with Sir Charles Mackkeras, Gilda/Rigoletto for the Grange Park Opera ‘Rising Stars’ series and ‘Messiah’ concerts with John Nelson and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg.

Future engagments include Helena and Countess Almaviva for ETO, Donna Elvira at Opera Holland Park and Kristina/The Makropoulos Case at ENO.

Laura gratefully receives the support of The Countess of Munster Musical Trust for their Funding and Recital scheme, the Concordia Foundation for the Barthel Prize, the Wingate Scholarship, the Zetland Foundation, and the Worshipful Company of Musicians.

Julia Riley

Julia Riley

Mezzo Soprano

Xerxes

Praised for her “plush mezzo” and “lively presence on stage”, British mezzo-soprano Julia Riley is much sought after on both the operatic stage and the concert platform. She is currently a principal artist at the Zürich Opernhaus, where her roles so far have included Charlotte in Calixto Bieto’s groundbreaking production of Zimmerman’s Die Soldaten; Dinah Trouble in Tahiti; Tebaldo Don Carlo under Fabio Luisi; Second Niece Peter Grimes; Fidalma Il Matrimonio Segreto; Tisbe La Cenerentola; and Zweite Dame Die Zauberflöte.

Recent engagements elsewhere include role debuts as Sesto La Clemenza di Tito and Xerxes with English Touring Opera, as well as Dorabella Cosi fan tutte for Opera Holland Park, for which she received great critical acclaim: “This Dorabella, really rather a nasty piece of work, is sung with great flair and rhythmic rigour by the glowing mezzo of Julia Riley” (Hilary Finch, Times).
Other roles include Nancy Albert Herring for the Opéra Comique, Opera de Rouen, and Glyndebourne on Tour; Zweite Dame Die Zauberflöte for Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse, and Glyndebourne on Tour; Cherubino Le nozze di Figaro for Glyndebourne on Tour; Donna Elvira Don Giovanni and Giovanna Seymour Anna Bolena for English Touring Opera; and Alessandro Eliogabalo for Grange Park Opera.

Highlights of the current season include Second Maid Elektra, Flora in Jonathan Dove’s The Enchanted Pig, Giovanna Rigoletto, and Second Lady Die Zauberflöteat the Zürich Opernhaus, as well as Charlotte Die Soldaten at the Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires.

Recent concert highlights include performances with La Scintilla (Zürich Opernhaus Baroque Orchestra) under Laurence Cummings, her first Verdi Requiem with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, and her BBC Proms debut in Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music under Sir Andrew Davis. She has also performed at London’s Barbican Centre, Birmingham Symphony Hall, London’s Cadogan Hall, BBC Welsh Proms, London Bach Festival, Teatro Nacional de São Carlos, Lisbon, and with the Academy of Ancient Music under Richard Egarr at the Auditorio Nacional de Música, Madrid.

Julia Riley was born in York and studied at the Royal Academy of Music and the National Opera Studio. She is winner of the Mozart Singing Competition and an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music.

Paula Sides

Paula Sides

Soprano

Atalanta

Recently applauded for her performance of Tosca with English Touring Opera, Paula Sides was awarded the Tagor Gold Medal from the Royal College of the Music and was the winner of the Karavoitis Prize in the Les Azureal International Competition. In 2018 operatic performances include the title role of Thais with Chelsea Opera Group, receiving critical acclaim, Cunegonde, Iford Opera. and Sombra, The Arcadians Opera Della Luna. This year on the concert platform performances include Mahler 8, Britten’s War Requiem, Rutter’s Requiem, Dona Nobis Pacem, Vaughan Williams, Beethoven 9, Dvorak’s 9th Symphony. Upcoming engagements Donna Anna Don Giovanni Longborough Opera Summer 2019.

Andrew Slater

Andrew Slater

Bass

Ariodates

For the last thirty years Andrew has been singing principal roles with UK opera companies. Thanks to the solid singing technique provided by the RNCM in the 1980s his voice has remained fresh as the odd grey hair has arrived, and he now looks and sounds ideal for the low voice roles of nobility or malevolence which abound in the repertoire. He is also good as the fat funny bloke. There is, in fact a role to suit him in almost every opera. He is eternally good humoured – taking as a blessing that his job is the activity he would do for fun around a conventional career. Married to a soprano whose international career allows him to travel the world in style, he also teaches a bit at the University of Huddersfield.

No praise can be too high for mezzo Julia Riley in the title role, or for the bewitching Laura Mitchell as Romilda; major plaudits for soprano Rachel Lloyd and counter-tenor Clint van der Linde, whose luxuriously powerful sound has no equal. Covent Garden would count itself lucky to host a baroque show of this calibre.

***** (5 STARS) The Independent

The Old Street Band plays like a charm for Jonathan Peter Kenny; the counter-tenor turned conductor shapes a gorgeous reading, flowing and spruce, that never fails to support the singers and favour the drama… A production that takes flight in more ways than one.

**** (4 STARS) What’s On Stage

A remarkable achievement and a tribute to the creativity and teamwork of all those involved at ETO. In its way it makes a statement as powerful as the celebrated Hytner production at the Coliseum, and that is no mean feat indeed.

**** (4 STARS) Opera Britannia

Musically gripping from take-off to landing. Jonathan Peter Kenny’s classy, high-octane conducting achieves wonders of continuity and contrast from his period band, while the cast is among ETO’s most impressive yet.

The Guardian

…excellent singing and rumbustious playing from the Old Street Band.

The Observer

Julia Riley brings vocal authority to the role of Xerxes.

London Evening Standard

It’s chocks-away for English Touring Opera’s autumn tour!

The Times

Showing At

  1. Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, London
    8th Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm
  2. Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, London
    10th Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm
  3. Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, London
    13th Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm
  4. Buxton Opera House
    21st Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm
  5. West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge
    26th Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm
  6. Theatre Royal, Lincoln
    31st Oct 2011 - 7:30 pm
  7. Harrogate Theatre
    5th Nov 2011 - 7:30 pm
  8. Snape Maltings Concert Hall
    12th Nov 2011 - 7:30 pm
  9. Exeter Northcott Theatre
    18th Nov 2011 - 7:30 pm
  10. Exeter Northcott Theatre
    19th Nov 2011 - 7:30 pm
  11. Malvern Theatres
    24th Nov 2011 - 7:00 pm
  12. Malvern Theatres
    25th Nov 2011 - 7:30 pm

Your Comments

  1. I would just like to write and tell you how much I enjoyed last night's performance of Xerxes at the Britten theatre. I have to confess that I have never seen a Handel opera and was invited by a friend who said that I would love the piece. He was right and all because the performance was so good on every front: superb singing, brilliant orchestra, excellent imaginative sets and wonderful staging. You made it such fun as well choosing the WW2 set with the cheeky windsock and dodgy nylon selling. I am already looking forward to your next production of Eugene Onegin!

    Said Judy O. at 10:56am on 17th Oct 2011

  2. Thank you for "Xerxes" at Buxton Opera House.Initially a bit dubious of the setting, and the pseudo Barnes Wallis character, I was carried along by the superb singing and the humour. The sisters' bedroom scene was brilliance!

    Said anthony mellor at 21:50pm on 22nd Oct 2011

  3. I was thrilled to bits to see ETO's production of Xerxes; it is always wonderful to hear Handel's music but in that setting I thought every note was more telling and more luminous somehow than usual.
    I don't ever remember a performance when almost every singer had a really really super voice which, even with maximum projection stayed true and beautiful.
    All the colours were lovely and the fly past and allusions to an RAF base spine tingly atmospheric (I spent almost all of the first 5 years of my life on various RAF bases, it brought it all back).

    Said Carol J. at 12:24pm on 26th Oct 2011

  4. Congratulations from Malvern on the performances here, ending the tour. What imagination, excellence and fun! Superb music, superb singing, mind broadening design, sets and much else - and don't foget the Wardrobe Mistress! In other words so many who made it all work.

    Said Peter & Molly Lawrence at 10:40am on 29th Nov 2011

  5. As a fully-fleshed Handel geek, I'm usually annoyed by most productions that I attend; this was a delightful exception! Superb singing and playing, and a production that managed to retain the essence of the work. A really wonderful evening.

    Said E. Irvine at 08:10am on 23rd Oct 2016

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