Dr David Vickers: Seminar Details and Video
Dr David Vickers, RNCM
Wednesday 7 March 2012
Borrowing with heavy interest: from Bononcini’s Il Xerse (Rome, 1694) to Handel’s Serse (London, 1738).
Originally a box-office failure, and thereafter eclipsed unfairly by a short individual number in its opening scene, Handel’s Serse has become established in recent decades as the most popular of his so-called ‘antiheroic’ operas – principally because of Nicholas Hytner’s witty production at English National Opera in 1985 which celebrated the composer’s tercentenary. Notwithstanding the birth of the opera’s good fortunes in modern times, a closer examination of Handel’s creative processes still has plenty to reveal about his compositional methods, ideas about musicodramatic characterisation and his ‘borrowing’ of musical ideas from works by other composers. Handel not only knew and had access to a manuscript score of Bononcini’s much older Roman setting of the same libretto, but also he made significant uses of various themes from it in several important major works written for London during the 1730s. Bononcini’s Il Xerse has never been performed since 1694 nor edited for publication, but some RNCM students and I shall use facsimiles of the manuscript to explore how Bononcini’s opera directly influenced Handel’s. Hopefully, a fair appreciation of the virtues of both composers will emerge from the experiment.