Serse (Xerxes, HWV 40) is an opera seria in three acts
by George Frideric Handel. It was first performed in
London on 15 April 1738. The Italian libretto was
adapted by an unknown hand from that by Silvio
Stampiglia for an earlier opera of the same name by
Giovanni Bononcini in 1694. Stampiglia's libretto was
itself based on one by Nicolņ Minato that was set by
Francesco Cavalli in 1654. The opera is set in Persia
(modern day Iran) in 480 BC and is very loosely based
upon Xerxes I of Persia, though there is little in
either the libretto or music that is relevant to that
setting. Xerxes, originally sung by a castrato, is now
generally performed by a mezzo-soprano, contralto or
countertenor. Although the English title Xerxes is
widely used, the original Italian title was Serse.
The opening aria, "Ombra mai fu", sung by Xerxes to a
tree (Platanus orientalis), is set to one of Handel's
best-known melodies, and is often played in an
orchestral arrangement, known as Handel's "largo"
(despite being marked "larghetto" in the score).
Although originally written for Opera, I created this
arrangement for Flute and Concert (Pedal) Harp.