Hasse: Artaserse (1730, Venice)

Franco Fagioli Arbace, Sonia Prina Artabano, Maria Grazia Schiavo Mandane, Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani Artaserse, Antonio Giovannini Megabise, Rosa Bove Semira, Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia, Corrado Rovaris
189:00 (2 DVDs)
Dynamic 37715

This live video recording from a 2012 production interjects images from the set (basically an over-sized staircase for much of the time) and from the pit (where we learn that the baroque ensemble of the OII play on modern instruments). Hasse’s music is lively and dramatic, full of energy and extremely demanding on all of the six principals. The trouble with that kind of music is that it is too easily pushed too hard; even singers of this high calibre frequently struggle to find room for all of the notes, such is the frenetic pace, and what sound to me like composed Da Capo decorations only serve to hightlight their difficulties. Ultimately, although it is great to have a visual record of this production (and of any Hasse opera!), there are too many caveats to recommending it to our readers; that said, I never have been a great fan of opera and perhaps regular visitors to the opera house will get a completely different impression.

Brian Clark