Handel’s Serse in Düsseldorf

I was expecting great things from Stefan Herheim’s production of Xerxes at Düsseldorf – his Parsifal at Bayreuth had been both intellectually powerful and aesthetically pleasing. His Handel was a huge disappointment, simply because he would not take the opera seriously.  Like a number of other directors, he must have feared that the audience would get bored with a “straight” interpretation, so we were given an elbow-nudging display of silly characters doing silly things, with too much fussy business on the stage. And oh yes! What an original joke! To accompany the amorous exploits of Xerxes, the letters of his name are rearranged to Sex Rex. Boy, did this evening make me yearn for Nicholas Hytner’s elegant, witty and satisfying production of the same work at the Coliseum.