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Classical Opera Company - Artaxerxes - Early Music Review


01 April 2011
Early Music Review
David Hansell

Andrew Benson-Wilson enjoyed the live performances of this production (EMR 134, Feb. '09) and I am happy to report that everything he savoured has found its way on to this recording.  It took me a while to get used to hearing 18th-century opera in English (and Arne's less inspired moments - both verbal and musical - did prompt unworthy thoughts of G&S in parody mode) but once tuned in, I appreciated the composer's and the conductor's efforts to keep the strange plot on the move.  As Andrew noted, the cast is a young one and it is a pleasure to hear them sing the coloratura with comfort and pleasure, even if sheer exuberance occasionally provokes tonally-unwise decoration.  The large orchestra is excellent and what they have to do is highly inventive and colourful.  Artaxerxes was core repertoire for 50 years from its first performance and we owe a great debt to conductor Ian Page for bringing it back to life.  Look out for a revival of this production and in the meantime enjoy this recording.  The booklet is excellent (if with a few minor errors in the libretto) though only in English.  Perhaps there is a feeling that the composer of Rule, Britannia will be most enjoyed at home.


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