THEATRE / Hello, hello, it's good to be back

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Nicholas Hytner's sharp, smart and impeccably stylish production of Xerxes defined a late- 20th-century approach to the staging of Handel's operas when it first appeared at ENO in 1985. Obliquely camp, emphatically post- modern, it was a joy to watch from start to finish - which is more than you can say of most Handelian theatre - with a finesse of detail that was nicely judged to fascinate the eye but not obscure the music; and for its efforts it picked up a well-deserved Olivier Award. How much of the finesse survives now that the piece has been handed on to one of ENO's less inspiring staff producers for its fourth revival is an open question. But the basics remain, as do some of the previous personnel - including Christopher Robson and Yvonne Kenny (left), who were superb before, and the period-specialist conductor Ivor Bolton (likewise). The revival opens 14 Jan and continues 19, 21, 26, 28 Jan, 3, 9, 11, 14, 16 and 24 Feb. Box office: 071-836 3161. Michael White