Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling beautiful Baroque production, 1 May 2014
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This review is from: Vinci: Artaserse (DVD) [2014] [NTSC] (DVD)
Here is a 'new' great Baroque opera, not at all like Handel or Vivaldi - Leonardo Vinci has entirely his own voice. We are treated to a performance which has not been altered in 'expert' hands to suit modern tastes. The sets and costumes are exceptionally intelligent, representing musical and scenic unity. The setting is simple, a platform, painted backdrops and five dressing-room mirrors at the side of the stage. The camera catches both the front-stage drama as well as the back-stage activities. The costumes are those of 18th-century nobility, blonde wigs and lots of 'white-face' make-up, so the intention is clearly to give a semblance of the opera in its time.

The story is set in Ancient Persia. The prefect of the Royal Guard, Artabano, desiring power, stabs king Serse to death and attempts to put the blame on Serse's son Dario, who is quickly executed by order of Serse's eldest son and successor Artaserse. However, his daughter Semira declares that Dario is not the murderer, so Artabano gives the bloody murder weapon to his son Arbace swearing him to secrecy. Arbace is discovered and exposed as the murderer to the chock of his friend Artaserse and Mandane, his fiancée and Artaserse's sister. Arbace nobly keeps his oath even to the moment of his execution when his father relents and confesses, yet Arbace forgives him and begs that his life be spared to which Artaserse agrees.

It's an all-male cast opera. Countertenors are cast in shirt roles to play the female characters in the opera. The entire cast produces exceptionally fine singing. Philippe Jaroussky's clear, pure voice is consistently focused and well supported and every line gloriously phrased. Max Emanuel Cencic has the range to bash out Mandane's highest notes, and is supremely talented at getting around fast coloratura passages but I admired more the reflective lyrical arias. Franco Fagioli has a rich, agile voice, secure over an astonishingly large range, and the technical assurance of his coloratura is spectacular. Valer Barna-Sabadus's singing is well controlled and consistent throughout his range. Yuriy Mynenko is not far behind. The tenor Juan Sancho brings treasonous Artabano vividly to life. Diego Fasolis ensures that the pacing of the drama is spot on.

This wonderful, traditional staging of Artaserse is one of the landmarks in the revival of Italian Baroque opera. It ought to have been released on Blu-ray, since the high definition format allows the opera to be appreciated by a much wider public. Strongly recommended.
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