The aria Ombra mai fu at the start of Act I of Handel's opera seria Serse (Xerxes) is likely to be its best-known asset. Serse was written in 1733-38, at the end of Handel's career as an opera composer: he concentrated on oratorio after 1741. It is a great achievement. Not least because it uses the music, and the marriage of words and music, to evoke in the audience pathos, sympathy, delight, and as much tempered ridicule as tempered tenderness.
Giovanni Simone Mayr‘s „Medea in Corinto“ is „the most absolutely amazing opera discovery in decades“ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung). A triumph for the Bavarian State Opera, the work was staged with a roster of top vocalists headed by Nadja Michael and Ramon Vargas in a production crafted by one of the leading directors of our time, Hans Neuenfels, and with a musical director in demand all over the world, Ivor Bolton. Born near Ingolstadt, Germany, in 1763, Mayr moved to Italy around 1787 and became one of the most important composers of Italian opera between Mozart and Rossini. He also taught many reputable composers, such as Donizetti. Written at the dawn of romanticism and the bel canto era, his main works unite stylistic characteristics of Viennese classicism with Italian melodic exuberance. „Medea in Corinto“ was premiered in Naples in 1813.
Glyndebournes Saul stole the summer and had critics raving. The Guardian (****) applauded virtuoso stagecraft from director Barrie Kosky in his debut production there, calling the show a theatrical and musical feast of energetic choruses, surreal choreography and gorgeous singing. For The Independent, which ranked it amongst five top classical and opera performances of 2015, there was no praise too high for the cast. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Ivor Bolton sparkles from the pit with period panache, and designer Katrin Lea Tags exuberant costumes (The Times ****) set the Old Testament story in Handels time, with a witty twinge of the contemporary.