King Xerxes from English Touring Opera

A new production by the English Touring Opera has been created by James Conway. It is called King Xerxes and thanks to Frank Miller the story in the opera is well-known, however those who go to see the opera would still be well recommended to read the synopsis.

The opera has a great deal of admiration for the Spitfire and in this opera is is addressed with Handel’s most beautiful song. Guy Gibson, the leader of the Dambusters squadron is Arsamene,  there is no place in the opera for the dog however. The opera seems to be somewhat cobbled together and is a combination of common sense, design and directional inspiration, that said the production is funny throughout.

During the opera there are many modern references mixed in with the classical and the whole production seems half updated. However this is well-balanced by the production utilising and playing on several modern sensibilities. The emotional finale always comes as a shock to audiences and in this production its use is particularly clever.

There are other things in the production which are not so brilliant however. The video at the end should be revised as it has the feeling that it was made in a half-hearted way, and the use of poppies at the end of the opera seems to be in rather bad taste.

That said, the opera is musically impressive. It will grip the audience throughout and the conducting by Jonathan Peter Kenny is high octane and is very much in continuity with the rest of the opera. The cast of this production is some of the most impressive that the English Touring Opera has ever seen, and Julia Riley in particular puts in a very notable performance.