George Fridric Handel was the Orson Welles of the English music scene, conquering London in 1711 at age 25 with the first of his 39 operas, Rinaldo, and proceeding to redefine traditional musical concepts. Handel's operas exuded an unheard-of depth, color and passion, taking the standard form of “opera seria,” or a series of arias one after the other, into a new realm of plot and character study, which paved the way for our modern opera. This week, L.A. Opera concludes its production of Handel's Tamerlano , a rarely performed work that has all the best elements of opera — and soap opera. The plot centers around the capture of the Turkish sultan Bajazet by the Tartar tyrant Tamerlano, who falls in love with his prisoner's daughter, Asteria. She obligingly marries her father's tormentor and murders him on their wedding night. Move over, All My Children! Countertenor superstar Bejun Mehta will undoubtedly delight as the sleazy, spoiled Tamerlano, and Placido Domingo has been praised for his interpretation of the proud, wounded lion, Bajazet. The cast also includes soprano Sarah Coburn as Asteria, and the amazing Irish mezzo Patricia Bardon is, they say, so convincing as a man — Prince Adronico — that people have mistaken her for a countertenor. William Lacey makes his L.A. Opera debut conducting the Chas Rader-Shieber production.

Sat., Nov. 21, 8 p.m.; Mon., Nov. 23, 8 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 25, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 28, 2 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 1, 7:30 p.m., 2009

LA Weekly