Artaserse, Prince of Persia

It’s only a few months now until the premiere of “Artaserse.” I thought I would just collect a few links that could be helpful to skim through, to get into the spirit; of course I’m happy if anyone can amend the collection.

– by Lankin –

The Opera

There are many operas called “Artaserse” using the same libretto,  Pietro Metastasio‘s. Leonardo Vinci‘s “Artaserse” was the first, composed for the audience in Rome, in 1730. Hasse came shortly after, as well in 1730; he composed his one for the audience of Venice.

The story is based on the historic figure of Artaxerses I, who succeeded his father Xerxes on the throne of Persia in 465 BC.

The poet Metastasio was as much of a genius and has influenced music as much as Lorenzo da Ponte later. Many composers benefitted from his great libretti; the love for Metastasio’s work persisted, even when Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice officially ended the Baroque era, and another type of libretto was called for.

I don’t know any statistics about this, but I think hardly a librettist or poet has been set to music by more composers  throughout the centuries.  (How many “La Clemenza di Tito”s are there exactly? I gave up counting.)

The roles of Artaserse are as follows:

ARTASERSE Xerxes’ younger son; prince and later king of Persia; Arbaces’ friend and Semira’s lover / soprano
MANDANE Xerxes’ daughter; Arbaces’ lover / soprano
ARTABANO general of Xerxes’ army, head of the royal guard; Arbace’s and Semira’s father / tenore
ARBACE Artaserse’s friend, and Mandane’s lover / soprano
SEMIRA Arbace’s sister, and Artaserse’s lover / soprano
MEGABISE Artabanes’ captain and confidant / soprano

I think it is safe to assume that Vinci just loved sopranos.

As the opera was written for Rome, the original cast was exclusively male – so the decision to compose a men-only ensemble is very authentic.


The Operas of Leonardo Vinci, Napoletano – by Kurt Sven Markstrom

Cencic is used to singing  … Is there a counterpart for the term “breeches-role”? I determine it to be “skirt-role” now. Oh, but sorry, Mr. Barna-Sabadus; the beard has to go.


Semira, this is more than just a 5 o’clock shadow.

The performance, as far as I could find out, will be concertante. Maybe there will be some acting, or some props, but I couldn’t find any proof for a staged performance to be planned – so we have to resort to the own private cinema in our heads.

*Edit, 7 Aug.: According to their own website, there will be staged performances in Nancy.

The plot of Artaserse provides an abundance of material here: Drama, romance, even bromance! Plot-wise, Artaserse has it all: bloody swords, poisoned cups, and nightly escapes from prison – you name it. There might even be the occasional romantic garden-scene.

Cast and dates

This list of dates is on PJ’s official EMI page. It might be worth to double-check on Cencic’s page.

(I won’t put my own list here, as if something is changed, cancelled or re-scheduled, it will be updated on the EMI page first thing, whether here it would lead to troubles for people who planned to go there.)

The cast is going to be as follows:

Philippe Jaroussky, Artaserse
Max Emanuel Cencic, Mandane
Franco Fagioli, Arbace
Valer Barna-Sabadus, Semira
Daniel Behle, Artabano
Yuriy Minenko, Megabise

Markus Hoffmann, concertmaster
Diego Fasolis, conductor


There is of course, the font of all knowledge, Wikipedia.

Here is the full libretto.

You might not know the other singers yet, apart from Cencic, of course, who is hard to miss.

Of Franco Fagioli his Händel & Mozart Album is well worth to listen into. This is him duetting with Cecilia Bartoli:

Next, some arias sung by Valer Barna-Sabadus. His album “Hasse reloaded” is very recommendable – and you can make a guess who wrote the libretti to “La Gelosia”, a.k.a.  “Perdono, amata Nice”, as well as to “Didone Abbandonata.”

Daniel Behle is a young tenor who is maybe most notable for his Lieder-repertoire. His Richard-Strauß-Album is definitely worth listening into.

Yuri Minenko is not equally featured on CD yet; you get a good impression on Youtube though – there are a lot of clips from concerts, and interviews.

Will there be a recording?

Rejoice, a recording has already been made!

PJ:   […] What’s fascinating with Baroque music is that we are not the first generation looking for rare music, but we are still finding incredible things and the search is not finished. For example, Max and I have recorded the opera Artaserse by Leonardo Vinci.

*edit*: The album will be out on 12 October 2012, according to German Amazon. A preview is already availlable (26.09.2012). 

In France, it seems the release will be on 1 October 2012 already.

My guess would be that the release date may be end of this year. However, this is only a wild guess; it might be delayed due to PJ’s announced break.

More music!

Here are some examples how “Artaserse” was set to music over the centuries. I put the excerpts of music in the order they appear in the opera. It is much harder to find arias of Artaserse than those of Arbace; hopefully this is going to change soon now 😉

Prepare for much scrolling 😉



Conservati fedele,
pensa ch’io resto e peno
e qualche volta almeno
ricordati di me.
Ch’io per virtù d’amore
parlando col mio core
ragionerò con te.

The most famous version of this is by Mozart, his Concert Aria KV28, sung here by the great Teresa Berganza.


Per pietà, bell’idol mio,
non mi dir ch’io sono ingrato,
infelice e sventurato
abbastanza il ciel mi fa.
Se fedele a te son io,
se mi struggo a’ tuoi bei lumi,
sallo amor, lo sanno i numi,
il mio core, il tuo lo sa.

This is what Bellini made out of it. The singer is Renata Tebaldi.

Vincenzo Bellini
Renata Tebaldi
Giorgio Favaretto, piano



Vo solcando un mar crudele,
senza vele e senza sarte;
freme l’onda, il ciel s’imbruna,
cresce il vento e manca l’arte
e il voler della fortuna
son costretto a seguitar.
Infelice, in questo stato
son da tutti abbandonato;
meco sola è l’innocenza
che mi porta a naufragar.

The following must be especially weird to hear for PJ, as of course, also “Vo solcando un mar crudele” is from Artaserse – but it is Arbace’s aria. This is Leonardo Vinci’s “Artaserse.” The singer is Kathleen Kuhlmann.


The following is Arbace’s aria as well:


Per quel paterno amplesso,
per questo estremo addio,
conservami te stesso,
placami l’idol mio,
difendimi il mio re.

Vado a morir beato,
se della Persia il fato
tutto si sfoga in me.

It is set to music here by Johann Adolf Hasse. The singer is Vivica Genaux, the orchestra is the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, the conductor is René Jacobs.

Act 2


Fra cento affanni e cento
Palpito, tremo e sento
Che freddo dalle vene
Fugge il mio sangue al cor.

Prevedo del mio bene
Il barbaro martiro,
E la virtù sospiro,
Che perde il genitor.

Unter hundert und aber hundert Schmerzen bebe, zittre und fühle ich,
daß mein Blut kalt aus den Adern
in mein Herz flieht.

Ich sehe die grausame Pein
der Geliebten voraus,
und seufzend beklage ich die Ehre,
die mein Vater verliert.

In hundreds upon hundreds of agonies
l shake, I tremble, and feel
my blood run cold
l’rom my veins to my hcart.

I foresee my beloved’s
cruel torment,
and sigh for the honour
my father has lost.

(Translation via MrConvivator on youtube; thank you for sharing!)

The most famous version of this aria is maybe Mozart’s Concert Aria KV 88, “Fra cento affanni e cento.” Here it is sung by the divine Edita Gruberova.

In the next clip, you can hear Leonardo Vinci’s version again. (Go to 57 min)
The singer is Simone Kermes, the ensemble is”Le Musiche Nove”, conducted by Claudio Osele.

I am sure you have more Artaserse favourites, and different sources. Please add to the list so we can all get into the spirit 😉

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