* Notes *
The production of Serse that recently completed a run at Berkeley West Edge Opera turned Händel's opera seria on its head, to amusing effect. Though I was reluctant to go to this, as I had just heard and seen a fantastic Serse in Houston only 7 months ago, the experience in El Cerrito was not without rewards.
Mark Streshinsky did a fine job with the production, the stage looked clean, the branches woven into the shape of a plane tree were attractive, and the opera managed to be rather funny without being stupid. Though the orchestra was together under conductor Alan Curtis, there were consistent intonation problems, especially in the strings. The chorus had trouble staying with the orchestra, perhaps because they were so far upstage.
The cast acted well. Donald Sherrill was hilarious as Elviro, especially when pretending to peddle flowers. Anna Slate was also very entertaining as the ridiculous Atalanta. Ryan Belongie sounded wonderfully warm and clear as Arsamene. Angela Cadelago made for a winsome Romilda, though her singing was not perfectly clean and her vibrato was somewhat distracting. Cadelago was lovely in the finale, as was the chorus. Paula Rasmussen sounded lucid and strong throughout in the title role.
* Tattling *
The audience was engaged by the performance, though somewhat confused by the convoluted plot. There was much talking during the first half of the opera from the people in Row U Seats 24-26 in the balcony. Thankfully, I had the good fortune to not be seated next to anyone, and was able to move away from them.