March 19, 2014

Artaserse’s countertenor showdown storms the palace at Versailles

Just days before the opera’s DVD release, five male divas join forces again on stage.

It’s not every day you see five of the world’s leading high-voiced male singers share the stage in a single, sensational show. But Leonardo Vinci’s 1730 opera Artaserse boasts a brilliant male line-up worthy of the Baroque splendour at the Château de Versailles, where it plays this week on the 19th, 21st and 23rd March. Louis XIV would have loved it.

On March 24 the Erato DVD of this production’s 2012 premiere hits the shelves, with a glorious cast featuring countertenor stars Max Emanuel Cencic, and Philippe Jaroussky in the title role. (Originally, Vinci’s all male cast of five castrati and a tenor was necessitated by a papal decree banning women from appearing onstage in Rome.) A major event in the opera world, this modern revival of an Italian rarity was a triumph in Lausanne. The ensuing CD release “seduced” the Guardian critic, who declared that “the singing is epoch-making” in performances that “redefine the capabilities of the countertenor voice and take it beguilingly into territories new”.

No tantrums and tiaras in Silviu Purcarete’s production — well, actually, there are a few tiaras — just incredible singing, sumptuous costumes and vibrant playing from Concerto Köln. A must-see for all opera lovers.

Artaserse is out on DVD March 24, and available on CD.