- John A. Parkinson
Opera in three acts by Thomas Augustine Arne probably to his own libretto after Pietro Metastasio ’s Artaserse; London, Covent Garden, 2 February 1762.
Artaxerxes was Arne’s first and only attempt at a full-length English opera on the Italian model. For his libretto he seems to have made an English version of Metastasio’s well-known text himself, already set numerous times by such composers as Hasse and J. C. Bach. The opera was chiefly intended as a display piece for his pupil Charlotte Brent, whose part of Mandane contains coloratura writing of awesome difficulty. Semira, the other female role, also demands an accomplished singer. John Beard first sang the part of the villain Artabanes, whose complex character and mixture of motives is reflected in his music. Artaxerxes and Arbaces, two castrato roles, were sung by the Italians Peretti and Tenducci respectively, which brought some criticism from those opposed to ‘the vile race of eunuchs’. Tenducci’s music requires expressiveness as well as a measure of virtuosity, and is more demanding than that given to Peretti. The part of the treacherous Rimenes, sung by George Mattocks, was of a suitably unsubtle nature....