Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us


Arne - Artaxerxes X 2

Christopher Robson (alto) Artaxerxes; Ian Partridge (ten) Artabanes; Patricia Spence (mez) Arbaces; Richard EdgarWilson (ten) Rimenes; Catherine Bott (sop) Mandane; Philippa Hyde (sop) Semira, The Parley of Instruments / Roy Goodman.

Hyperion Dyad CDD22073



The continued neglect of this famed opera in English by Thomas Arne (1710-1778, the English composer of Rule Brittania) is incomprehensible; particularly so since the '90s, when there was a glowing reception for Hyperion's landmark recording:

" - - enormously enjoyable, full of good melodies, richly orchestrated, never (unlike Italian operas of the time) longwinded - - " [Gramophone 1996]

In 1762 Haydn had been so impressed by Arne's Artaxerxes at Covent Garden that he said he "had no idea we had such an opera in the English Language".

All the "official" reviews of Hyperion's Parley Of Instruments recording were enthusiastic, and on Amazon.uk you will see three more persuasive 5-star evaluations.

Now you can have it at half price, coincidentally at the same time as a short, over-subscribed run at Covent Garden's studio theatre; photos from that lavishly dressed production are shown here - we were not invited to review it.



Nowadays, with the currently great popularity of Handel's Italian operas and early Mozart opera seria (which Arne anticipates here) the Metastasio text (probably adapted by the composer) is no longer a hurdle, though it is regrettable that key characters have names so confusingly similar as Artaxerxes, Artabanes, Arbaces and Mandane, leaving only Rimines and Semira unproblematic.

The numerous arias are attractive and the orchestration generous and vivid, singing and period orchestral accompaniment fine. Production is to Hyperion's expected standard, with full historical information and the libretto complete, even for a cheap reissue...

Others will have to make comparison between this completion and the newer one by Ian Page/Duncan Druce etc., until Artaxerxes hopefully resurfaces, perhaps in ENO's repertoire and on an overdue first DVD?

Meanwhile, how about Classical Opera Company putting some clips from the Linbury on YouTube, today's way?

Peter Grahame Woolf

Photos from Linbury Studio: Tristram Kenton    

For the history of Artaxerxes' eclipse, see Tim Ashley in The Guardian

another Artaxerxes

Linn Records CKD 358

Now another Artaxerxes - a studio recording from Linn with accomplished singing and vivid period orchestral playing under Ian Page.

This has followed the Ian Page/Duncan Druce Classical Opera Company completion of missing parts of the last Act as given at Covent Garden. Their staging is serendipitously illustrated above, although we had not been invited to review that production live at the little Linbury Studio(see above)...

I shall leave baroque specialistys to determine whether the new one is competitive against the bargain Hyperion version, but am pleased to say that the studio recording sounds splendid, as one expects from Linn, and the production is fine, with good explatory/historical notes and full libretto by the composer.

One caveat, the art editor has done strange things. Cast stage photos are buried behind the discs on the inlay trays (q.v. Insert Booklets) and, most extreme variation, one royal lady can only be seen by pulling open the pocket for the booklet [R]...

Enjoy one or other; both are good and everyone should have a recording of Arne's Artaxerxes, which left Haydn astonished by it. He had "no idea", he is on record as saying, "that we had such an opera in the English language! " [Guardian].

PGW December 2010