Crowning glory of English Touring Opera’s tour

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Handel’s Xerxes is the crowning glory of ETO’s tour of Venetian operas telling Greek myths.

This tale of love, power and war is relocated to a Battle of Britain airfield. The heroes are pilots and the women they love are nurses. This setting really works and provides lots of opportunities for humour. Xerxes’ opening aria is sung to a plane not a plane tree and many jokes follow.

The music soars in a brilliant succession of arias, all sung really well.

Julia Riley is a splendid, androgynous Xerxes, the perfect mezzo soprano in a trouser role. She just captures the stance of a 1940s man in authority and her singing is thrilling.

Clint Van Der Linde’s countertenor is wonderful as Arsamenes. The acting is skilled and agile and the Old Street Band are brilliant.

A sparkling and memorable evening.

Xerxes was staged at Buxton Opera House on Saturday.