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Xerxes, HWV. 40 is an opera seria in three acts by George Frideric Handel. It was first performed in London in1738. 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 Nicolò 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 plane tree, 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).
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