It’s a rare event when a centuries-old opera receives its first ever performance in Australia but this is the case with Pinchgut Opera’s production of Johann Adolph Hasse’s Artaserse.

“I’ve been wanting to do the work of Hasse for many years,” Pinchgut’s Artistic Director Erin Helyard explained at a roundtable event earlier this week, which saw mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux, countertenors Carlo Vistoli and David Hansen and director Chas Rader-Shieber take part in a wide-ranging discussion about the show that opens at Sydney’s City Recital Hall later this month. “He probably was the most famous composer of the 18th century, no question. He was certainly the most beloved.”

Vivica Genaux, Artaserse, Pinchgut Opera Vivica Genaux, Erin Helyard, Chas Rader-Shieber, David Hansen, Carlo Vistoli. Photo © Candice Docker

Helyard describes Hasse as being one half of an 18th-century power couple. “He married the greatest soprano of his generation, that was Faustina Bordoni, and together they held the European stage for about 30 years,” he explains.

While Hasse wrote Artasersein 1730 in Venice – it was his first big international success – he reworked it with his wife in mind for the role of Mandane (who in the opera is...