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If I didn’t already admire Isabel Bayrakdarian’s singing, I certainly would after seeing and hearing this.
This is one of those performances that is consistent and interesting the whole way through, so I selected this bit kind of at random. It’s “Né men l’ombre” from Act I, when Serse has just told Romilda that he loves her and has given her a necklace. Romilda, who as we know loves Arsamene instead, places the necklace on the plane tree. One more monument to Serse’s obliviousness and/or eccentric self-absorption.
Bayrakdarian stood out to me, but really there are no weak links in this production. As noted, Paula Rasmussen has some terrific moments as Serse. Patricia Bardon gives Amastre a sort of stoic dignity, even when wearing the false mustache, and in addition to sounding nice, Ann Hallenburg’s Arsamene comes off as a fun dramatic contrast to his older brother Serse – slightly more youthful and hotheaded.
One more thing. During the final scene, when order has been restored and all seems to be well again, one of Serse’s guards comes in bearing a brand new tree! A much smaller one, but identical to the old one, and in the same kind of little glass box. No one seems upset, and Serse does not appear to be particularly excited – after all, it’s not the same tree, is it – but I guess this makes sense. You may torch the tree, but human nature being what it is, you never really torch the tree, you know what I mean?