The famed musical explorer Charles Burney wrote, “I have not been able to discover the author of the words of this drama: but it is one of the worst Handel ever set to Music: for besides feeble writing, there is a mixture of tragic-comedy and buffoonery in it, which Apostolo Zeno and Metastasio had banished from serious opera.” What everybody seemed to have missed that day was the fact that Handel had actually tried to be innovative.
Blending elements of tragedy and comedy by simultaneously including high and low-class characters within a fluid dramatic and musical structure left the original audience seriously befuddled. And thus, Serse disappeared from the operatic stage for almost two hundred years. Hard to believe, but the first modern revival did not take place until 5 July 1924. Today it is one of the most popular Handel operas, with the lightly ironic and occasionally facial tone resonating with stage directors and audiences alike.
Without doubt, Handel was at least 200 years ahead of his time!
G.F. Handel: Serse