One of Handel’s most performed operas comes to life at the hands of talented undergraduate students when CCM presents the annual Opera d’arte production on March 30 and 31 in the Cohen Family Studio Theater. Admission is free but reservations are required.

The CCM Undergraduate Opera program’s 2010 and 2011 productions were both recognized by the National Opera Association‘s Annual Production Competition. The 2012 production of Serse is conducted by Brett Scott with stage direction by Kenneth Shaw.

Serse is loosely based on the life of Xerxes I of Persia and features love triangles, mistaken identities, countertenors and one of the most recognizable arias in all of the operatic repertoire, “Ombra mai fu.” The opera seria runs March 30 at 2 and 8 p.m. and March 31 at 8 p.m. Please visit the CCM Box Office or call 513-556-4183 to place a reservation. Limit two tickets per order.

Director Kenneth Shaw has decided to take a new approach on this Baroque opera, which is often set in Persia at its height. Instead, Shaw explains, “I’ve chosen to set this piece in the interior of an art gallery. The pretense is that the works displayed are done by Serse, himself – a kind of shrine to his own ego. The sketches displayed can also serve as suggestions of other locations in the opera.”

In line with this innovative presentation, Shaw asks his singers to remove the presentational acting style often associated with Baroque opera from their performances and embrace a more modern interpretation. “I’ve asked our young singers to detach from the urge to act their feelings and instead simply feel their emotions through this beautiful music.”

Despite the melismas and show-stopping difficulty of each aria, Shaw feels confident that this is the perfect opportunity for these singers to wow the audience and tackle something completely new. “This is an extremely difficult piece for young singers, but we chose it because we have a particularly talented pool of undergraduates at the moment and they have stepped up to the challenge beyond any expectation.”

Shaw explains the innovative casting this production:

Casting Baroque opera in the 21st century is quite necessarily different than it was in the 17th century. Today, the countertenor (male singers performing in the vocal range of a contralto or mezzo-soprano, or less frequently, a soprano) takes the place of the castrato. The title role of Serse was written for a famous castrato singer.  This production boasts both a countertenor and a soprano (in travesti) in the title role. Additionally, the role of Arsamane, traditionally taken by a mezzo-soprano (in travesti) is taken by both a baritone and a tenor in this production. The ranges are accessible for both voice types, and the roles are appropriate for the young singers involved. Though we utilize some baroque movement, we make no attempt here to define an exact time period.

We hope to illuminate the timeless human story of how we, no matter our station, can find ourselves trapped by power, love, deceit and especially our own errors in judgment.

Performance Times
2 p.m. Friday, March 30
8 p.m. Friday, March 30
8 p.m. Saturday, March 31

Cohen Family Studio Theater, College-Conservatory of Music
University of Cincinnati

Tickets & Parking Information
Tickets to Serse are free, but reservations are required. Please visit the CCM Box Office in the Corbett Center for the Performing Arts or call 513-556-4183 to reserve. Limit two tickets per order.

Parking is available in the CCM Garage (at the base of Corry Boulevard off Jefferson Avenue) and additional garages throughout the University of Cincinnati campus. For parking rates and information, please visit For more information, visit or call the CCM Box Office at 513-556-4183.

Serse Cast List

  • Serse: Eric Jurenas* and Lani Stait~
  • Arsamene: Emmett O’Hanlon* and Andrew King~
  • Elviro: Ryan Slone* and Wesley Brax~
  • Romilda: Kerrie Caldwell* and Emma Cardiff~
  • Atalanta: Laura Dobroth* and Katherine Papa~
  • Ariodate: Ryan Devens* and Cesar Mendez Silvagnoli~
  • Amastris: Chelsea Duval-Major* and Tara Morrow~

* March 30 evening
~ March 30 matinee, March 31 evening

CCM Season Presenting Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation

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