Revived English opera opens at the Royal Opera House

Thomas Arne’s Artaxerxes is being re-staged at Covent Garden


Tonight, one of the most popular 18th-century English opera compositions is being revived at London’s Royal Opera House. The opera Artaxerxes by Thomas Arne, who is best remembered for composing ‘Rule Britannia’, has not been performed at Covent Garden since 1842.


Orchestral parts, including the linking recitatives and the finale, had been lost in a fire when the original Covent Garden theatre burnt down in 1808. But, ahead of next year’s 300th anniversary of Arne’s birth, the missing sections of the opera have been recreated for performance at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre.

‘It was quite unusual for an opera by an Englishman to be so popular,’ says Classical Opera Company conductor Ian Page ‘What we’ve done in this production, is composed – hopefully as closely as possible – in the style of Arne. Had the recitatives and the finale not been lost I think it would absolutely have stayed in our repertoire.’

Written in 1762, Arne’s opera is set in ancient Persia and follows the events after the king’s assassination. The production stars countertenor Christopher Ainslie as Artaxerxes, soprano Elizabeth Watts as Mandane (pictured above), and tenor Andrew Staples as Artabanes, and will be performed by the Orchestra of the Classical Opera Company.

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Image: Dylan Thomas