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Following the highly acclaimed production at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, The Classical Opera Company presents Artaxerxes, recorded to celebrate the 300th anniversary of composer Thomas Arne.
This is the first complete recording of one of the most important and successful of all English operas, with the lost Finale realised most effectively by Duncan Druce.
Composer Thomas Arne, most famous for composing ‘Rule Britannia’, also won fans in Mozart and Haydn with his opera Artaxerxes that remained in the London repertoire almost continuously from its premiere in 1762 until the 1830s.
This stunning, but rarely recorded, opera has many well-known arias including ‘The soldier tir'd’, originally made famous by Joan Sutherland and sung here by Elizabeth Watts (“A lyric soprano as ravishing as one could possibly want” IRR).
The Classical Opera Company was founded in 1997 by conductor Ian Page. It specialises in the music of Mozart and his contemporaries, performing with its own period-instrument orchestra, and is emerging as one of Britain's most exciting and highly regarded young arts organisations.
The company appears regularly in London at such venues as Sadler's Wells, the Barbican and Wigmore Hall and has also performed at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, The Anvil, Basingstoke, St George's, Bristol, the Barbican's Mostly Mozart Festival, the Lufthansa Baroque Festival, the Bath International Music Festival, the Brighton Festival and the Buxton Festival.
“The music...is far from parochial, with as rich an array of influences as any Handel. Page and co achieved a signal success when they revived the piece, with newly composed recitatives (by Page) and finale (by Duncan Druce), at Covent Garden in 2009. This recording, more intimate than epic, happily preserves that achievement. Christopher Ainslie is outstanding in the title role.” Sunday Times, 9th January 2011 ***
“Arne's music veers from sub-Handel baroque to early galant, in the charming, innocent style of Johann Christian Bach...Elizabeth Watts and Rebecca Bottone shine under Ian Page's crisp direction.” The Observer, 23rd January 2011
“Page directs his players with style and sureness...How well the orchestra (and not only the woodwind) plays...The anger and venom summoned in Watts's vocal onslaught makes Mozart's Elettra seem no more than mildly put out. Watts truly brings Mandane's feelings to life...Some of the best singing comes from Christopher Ainslie in the title-role.” International Record Review, March 2011
“The very fine cast enters with spirit into the text's convoluted scenario of love and betrayal in ancient Persia and delivering [sic] the notes with assurance. Ian Page conducts the period-instrument forces with conviction and the sound is excellent.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2011 *****
“The recitatives...are delivered with conviction, flowing seamlessly into the arias. Christopher Ainslie as Artaxerxes woos with honeyed tone, while Caitlin Hulcup as his friend Arbaces impresses with her coloratura...There's much delectable writing for woodwind and horns, all beautifully played. This lively account of a charming work will give much pleasure.” Classic FM Magazine, April 2011 ****
“the ruthless virtuosity of [Watts's] 'Monster away!' carries all before it...admirable work by the other voices.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2011
BBC Music Magazine
Opera Choice - March 2011
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Thomas Arne was one of the great survivors of eighteenth-century theatrical life: in his early twenties he put on an unauthorized production of Acis and Galatea that prodded Handel into taking English seriously as a language for theatrical works. It should therefore come as no surprise that in the three years from 1759 he had three smash hits of his own, each an original masterpiece that effectively created a new genre. Artaxerxes, the second of these, was the first attempt to set a full-blown opera seria libretto in English.
The story of the rebellious captain of the guard’s attempts to usurp the Persian throne in the fifth century BC had captured the attention of several composers, but Arne’s opera was particularly successful because it was an excellent vehicle for great singing. Mandane’s spectacular aria ‘The Soldier, tir’d of War’s Alarms’ remained a show-piece for sopranos through much of the nineteenth century and has never entirely dropped out of the repertory.
When Haydn saw Artaxerxes in 1791 he was delighted with it and reportedly said he ‘had no idea we had such an opera in the English language’.
“Bott gives a masterly performance, with the counter-tenor Christopher Robson also impressive in the castrato title-role, and with Ian Partridge pure-toned and incisive in the role of the villain, Artabanes, even if his sweet tenor hardly conveys evil...from the overture onwards, [Goodman] electrifies the players and singers, pointing rhythms and aerating textures to bring out the charm as well as the vigour of the writing.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition
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