We caught up with counter-tenor Rupert Enticknap as he prepares to take on the role of Arsamenes, brother of King Xerxes, in next month’s performance of Handel’s tragicomedy at St John’s Smith Square.
How did you first come across the opera Serse? Serse holds a bit of a story for me. It was the first Handel opera I ever bought on CD. Then I sang some scenes from it for my first opera scenes production at the Royal College of Music and then I understudied the role for English National Opera. Now I am finally singing the full role!
What makes it a particularly special Handel opera? It’s very funny! Xerxes is a totally absurd man! Imagine a cross between an English aristocrat and Captain Jack Sparrow expatriated to a Venetian Palazzo on the Grand Canal. My role, Arsamenes, is his poor younger brother who has to deal with the wake of Xerxes’ erratic and arrogant behaviour.
How do you prepare for this role and singing Handel? I love Handel’s ability to capture human emotion. Even if you don’t understand the text, the music will make you understand the emotion behind it.
What’s your favourite aria from Serse? My favourite Arsamenes aria is actually the shortest in the whole piece. The arioso that comes before Arsamenes’ final blowout with his brother Xerxes, ‘Per dar fine alla mia pena’, is very simple yet heart rending, accompanied only by cello and continuo, showing that often the continuo arias in Handel’s operas are the most magical.
And then, the duet in act 3 between Arsamenes and Romilda is a classic couples row!
When can we hear this amazing piece? Friday 18 November, 7.00pm at St John’s Smith Square. Book now!