'Artaxerxes is a rare beast, perhaps a unique one: an 'opera seria' composed to English words. Almost all of the numbers are solo arias; there are two duets, and an ensemble Finale newly composed by Duncan Druce to replace the missing ending. Arne owes much to Handel, but he tends to write more concisely. This studio recording is based on a staged production, and it shows in the natural way in which the characters interact. The recitatives—also new, composed by Ian Page—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. 'The soldier, tir'd of war's alarms', recorded years ago by Joan Sutherland, goes to the excellent Elizabeth Watts as Arbaces' lover. There's much delectable writing for the woodwind and horns, all beautifully played. This lively account of a charming work will give much pleasure' (Classic FM)
Artaxerxes, premiered in London in 1762, was the first full-length opera seria sung in English. It proved a great success and helped to revive the fortunes of Thomas Arne, whose career had been in the doldrums. The opera featured his new protégée and mistress Charlotte Brent in the role of Mandane and Arne lavished attention on her music. Mandane’s arias and those of the hero Arbaces provide many of the opera’s high points, with their rich orchestrations, virtuoso vocal parts and captivating tunes. Though based on the Handelian model, Artaxerxes shows both Arne’s talent at the later galant style and his penchant for folk-like, pastoral airs. The results are mostly a delight (if a tad lightweight for the libretto’s blood ’n’ thunder deeds), with a variety of attractive arias further enhanced by Arne’s deft use of woodwind. Christopher Robson in the title role and Catherine Bott, thrilling as Mandane, head a fine team of singers: my only complaint is that Patricia Spence’s forceful Arbaces too often slips into shrill and strident mode.
Decca pays tribute to Joan Sutherland - "La Stupenda" to her numerous fans - with a limited-edition 23-CD set of her complete studio recitals. Joan Sutherland shot to international fame in February1959 when she sang the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and a month later she recorded her first solo album in Paris for Decca - the start of an exclusive association that would last until her retirement from the operatic stage on 31 December 1990. This is the first time all of Joan Sutherland's studio recitals have been made available in a single collection and the set is released in time for what would have been the diva's 85th birthday on 7 November; October 10 marks the first anniversary of her death. The CDs are presented in sleeves with original cover art a 48-page booklet contains an appreciation of Joan Sutherland by opera wrter and critic George Hall.
This 2-CD set presents an unprecedented survey of Mozart’s childhood visit to London in 1764-65. Ian Page conducts his outstanding period-instrument orchestra in a fascinating and wide-ranging programme which includes Mozart’s remarkable first symphony (composed when he was eight years old), along with his two other London symphonies and his first concert aria. The repertoire also explores the music that was being performed in London during Mozart’s stay, including works by J. C. Bach, Thomas Arne, Abel, Pescetti, Perez, George Rush and William Bates, many of which have not previously been recorded, and the large cast of soloists includes eight singers and harpsichordist Steven Devine.
What do we know about the Persian Empire? For most of the past 2,500 years, we've heard about it from the ancient Greek perspective: a decadent civilization run by despots, the villains who lost the Battle of Marathon and supplied the fodder for bad guys in literature and film. But is this image really accurate?
The Persian Empire is your opportunity to see one of the greatest empires in the ancient world from a fresh new perspective: its own. Over the span of 24 fascinating lectures, Professor John W. I. Lee of the University of California, Santa Barbara—a distinguished teacher and an expert on the long-buried secrets of the ancient world—takes the role of a history detective and examines Persian sources to reveal what we now know about this grand civilization.