★★★★☆ Star turns (and zombies) help Haydn’s musical sorceress cast her spell.

City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney
June 24, 2016

Often regarded as the father of the symphony, ditto the string quartet, Joseph Haydn is seldom regarded as a major player in the opera game. Nevertheless, he wrote around 15 of them, and tuneful little devils they are too. Written for the Esterházy court, 1784’s Armidawas his last effort but one, and like his penultimate oratorio The Creation, shows a composer still determined to push his creative boundaries. With a score full of innovative ideas for aria and ensemble structure, it also sports copious revelatory accompanied recitatives. There are plenty of deliciously imaginative orchestrations too, plus a tiny bandato colour the music for the Frankish army. Its only snag is its dramaturgy – a problem that it has to be said besets other works on the same subject. Haydn’s take may lack the flash of Handel’s Rinaldoor the sensuality of Lully’s Armide, but it has pace, variety and some very fine arias and duets.

A setting of an episode from Tasso’s epic Gerusalemme Liberata, the opera tells of Idreno, King of Damascus, and his attempts to...