in reply to Modified title: The structures created by many of the XML parsers in Perl appear unnecessarily deep in levels...
Your post suggests that you don't like dealing with XML via perl data structures (hashes of hashes and arrays etc...) but you also say "navigating them even with tools like XPath make you want to perform oral surgery on yourself"
So what would your ideal API look like? If you describe how you want to go about inspecting/manipulating your data maybe people can suggest modules that accommodate.
(Or perhaps an example of XML parsing in another language that you find less "bloomin' difficult".)