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Xerse is an opera by Francesco Cavalli (specifically, a dramma per musica) about Xerxes I. The libretto was written by Nicolò Minato, and was later set by both Giovanni Bononcini and George Frideric Handel. Minato's plot outline is loosely based on Book 7 of Herodotus's Histories. The opera, consisting of a prologue and three acts, was first performed at Venice on the 12 January of 1654, at the Teatro SS Giovanni e Paolo.

The opera was highly popular in Italy, not least due to Cavalli's setting of "Ombra mai fù" (later more famously set by Handel): 9 different revivals were given across Italy while Cavalli lived. In 1660 Cavalli was persuaded to travel to France to produce a new opera for the wedding of Louis XIV in Paris. Unfortunately for the composer, he soon became entangled in court intrigue which ensured that the projected opera, Ercole amante, was not ready in time and had to be replaced by a revival of Xerse at the last minute. Xerse was given with ballets by Cavalli's rival Jean-Baptiste Lully, a Florentine who had become the official court composer in France. The whole spectacle lasted eight or nine hours and the French audience had little appreciation for an opera in a foreign language, preferring Lully's dance music.

Xerse (Bononcini)

Xerse (Xerxes) is an opera in three acts by Giovanni Bononcini. It was designated as a dramma per musica. The libretto was written by Silvio Stampiglia after that by Nicolò Minato which had been used for the 1654 opera of the same name by Francesco Cavalli. Stampiglia's version was in turn used as the basis for Handel's Serse.

Stampiglia's version keeps to the story used by Minato but there are major differences in the way the work as a whole is structured.