Artaserse: The Graphic Novel

Artaserse: The Graphic Novel

The cover image. From left: Mandane, Arbace, Semira, Artaserse, Artabano and Megabise. Let the plotting begin!

INTRODUCTION

For someone who doesn’t have much free time, I have a nasty habit of coming up with ideas for projects. If I find myself thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if…?’, I know that I’ve just committed myself to weeks or months of slaving away on something.

As long-time readers of this blog will know, I am very fond of the opera Artaserse. And, at some point on a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon back in the winter of 2014, I decided it would be a great idea to create a graphic novel telling the story behind that opera. Had I realised how much work it would be, I might have thought twice, but I ploughed on with a mixture of creative ambition and desperate naivete. Eight months later, it was finished and I’ve now published it as a print-on-demand comic. It’s available in hardback and paperback. Both are on the expensive side, I’m afraid, but you’ll pay exactly the same for a copy as I do, so I can’t say fairer than that. There is also a much cheaper PDF ebook, available from either the hardback or paperback link.

There are several sections to explore here on this page. If you are a complete newcomer to Artaserse, then please read the General Notes below and then click here for a brief further explanation. If you are already an established fan, then you might want to click here to read about the changes I’ve made from the filmed version of the opera. And, if you’re wondering how I tackled the historical appendix (I even recreated the Ishtar Gate: yet another mad idea that sounded reasonable when I first had it), you can take a quick look here. At the very end there’s a series of character portraits so you can get to know them better. Enjoy the images that I’ve included throughout the page and, if you decide to take the plunge and buy a copy, please do come back and let me know what you thought.

Buy the hardback version here
Buy the paperback version here

considerwater14

Act 3: “Imagine water parted from the sea.” Arbace (right) embarks on a somewhat complex metaphor for how much he’ll miss home, while Artaserse (left) listens indulgently

GENERAL NOTES

You may be thinking that it’s pointless to take something defined by its music and reduce it to a silent, still format; but that’s not what I’m doing. The graphic novel is based on the libretto written for the opera by the poet Pietro Metastasio: essentially, this is a play. My project began as a way to explore that story: the poetry, the characterisation and the complicated tale of murder, love and intrigue at its heart: a tale which I feel is strong enough to stand alone. I was even more motivated by the discovery that the plot is based on fact and many of the characters were real people. As a result I’ve been drawn into the world of Achaemenid Persia, which has turned out to have intrigues, romances and vicious revenges far more compelling than anything that opera can supply. And I’ve been hugely encouraged by the fact that about half of the people who’ve got in touch about the graphic novel so far are not Baroque opera fans and have never seen Artaserse before. They’ve simply enjoyed Metastasio’s story.

However I’ve been very influenced by the aesthetic of the 2012 production of Artaserse, available on CD and DVD, with its original music by the Neapolitan composer Leonardo Vinci. For those who don’t know, this production had a big impact in the world of Baroque music. A lot of people I’ve met in that community have a great fondness for it, as do I. Hopefully these aficionados will forgive me for, perhaps, not taking the story entirely seriously in places. (For all that, I want to emphasise that I have always striven to preserve the feel of the original.)

Act 2: Artabano and Megabise

Act 2: ‘Hush, leave this to me’. Artabano seeks to secure Megabise’s good faith by brokering a marriage between him and Semira. Semira, it turns out, is far from amendable. Here you see the characters in their Act 2 Baroque-style costumes

DISCLAIMERS

1) I am not a graphic artist. I am a historian. The graphic novel was created using DAZ Studio, a program which I’ve been using for several years as a hobbyist. This is just meant to be a bit of fun, so if there are professional graphic artists out there, please don’t be too hard on me.

2) I have absolutely no connection or contact with any of the companies involved in producing the 2012 version of Artaserse. Similarly, I hope that in doing this I haven’t trodden on anyone’s toes. My efforts to reproduce costumes and characters are inspired by that production, but I hope there is enough of my own imagination in there to avoid causing offence.

3) The translation is my own and it was never meant to be slavishly accurate. My aim is to tell the story and to try to give each of the characters their own personality, rather than literally to translate all of Metastasio’s poetry. Nevertheless all the arias are present and correct in some form or another.

NOTES FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN THE DVD

In Act 2 you will find that the characters have changed into 18th-century costume, and in Act 3 you will discover that they’ve changed again, back to similar costumes to those they wore in Act 1. There is no profound significance to this. I’m merely keeping in line with the spirit of the filmed production, in which Act 2 is the sign for everyone to suddenly turn up in frock coats and big Rococo gowns.

NOTES FOR THOSE WHO HAVE SEEN THE DVD

So, you’ll have the advantage of being able to follow what’s going on, but you will notice all those niggling little moments where I’ve deviated from the story as we know it. Here I try to explain the reasoning behind those various changes.

In Act 2, you will see that I haven’t copied the costumes directly. Much as I love crazy wigs, I decided it’d be confusing to have all the men wearing exactly the same costume, as happens in the film. Thus I’ve given each of the male characters a different costume and I’ve done away with the wigs.

 In Act 3 you will find some scenes that aren’t familiar. In the Vinci production that we know and love, Act 3 has been extensively cut. We lose two arias, Mi credi spietata and Forsennata, che feci? (which fortunately are included on the CD) and a good portion of recitativo that adds some major character development. I have included both arias here: they’re important because they show us both female characters in a very different light. Semira finally develops a bit of steel, and Mandane shows a greater self-doubt and fragility than we’ve seen in her before, except possibly in Se d’un amor tiranno.

The Vinci Artaserse, however, entirely omits one of the most dramatic moments in Metastasio’s libretto. This scene, which is purely recitativo and happens immediately before the famous duet, does appear in settings of the opera by Hasse and Terradellas. I’m not sure whether Metastasio added it in later, or whether Vinci cut it, or whether the team behind the 2012 production thought it was a bit heavy and chose to leave it out. However I think this little scene is crucial to understanding the duet, so I’ve put it back where it belongs. Without it (as on the DVD), you get the impression that Mandane is little more than a termagant and you may wonder what Arbace sees in her. But in this short but moving scene, Metastasio shows us her utter desolation when she believes that her actions have led to Arbace’s death. Her despair, and Arbace’s timely arrival to save her, give the duet extra poignancy and significance.

I’ve also included the duel. Metastasio unforgivably has this happen off-stage: Mandane simply comes on and tells us the result. I’m the kind of girl who can’t say no to a bit of swashbuckling and, if a dramatic story is meant to end with a great duel between the hero and the villain, then I’m darn well going to have that happen onstage, thank you very much. Hence the need to invent Arbace’s speech to the people of Susa and the dialogue in the duel itself.

Quite frankly, there’s more of me in Act 3 than there has been in the previous acts. Metastasio left too many gaps that needed filling, and I’ve become quite fond of the characters, who began to ad-lib here and there. So forgive me: but I promise the story is absolutely faithful to the libretto even if the words aren’t an exact translation. I hope the sense and spirit are still intact.

PersianWarsTSEPIA

The Historical Appendix: My attempt to condense the Graeco-Persian Wars into a single frame of a comic

THE HISTORICAL APPENDIX

There is little to say about this, save to note again that Metastasio has carried out a major hatchet job on poor Megabyzus, who is demoted to being secondary villain in his own story. The appendix is all true, to the best of my present knowledge. Megabyzus was indeed one of the most brilliant generals and tacticians of his age, and his treatment at Artaxerxes’ hands smacks of royal ingratitude: it reminds me very strongly of Justinian’s behaviour towards Belisarius. I wanted to balance the opera’s fiction with historical ‘fact’.

However, it proved to be extremely difficult to recreate Achaemenid Persia through the medium of DAZ Studio, so I beg your indulgence. This is merely a summary of an extremely dramatic and exciting story. If anyone would like to hear more about Amytis and Megabyzus, there may be something coming here on the blog soon, but in the meantime all you need do is buy me a drink and I will oblige with great pleasure.

CHARACTER PORTRAITS

Just to finish off, here are our characters in a series of candid portraits which might help you gain a better idea of their respective personalities. Click on the image for a larger picture and some information on who they are.

 

PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

I would love to know if you read and enjoy the comic. Please take a few moments to leave a comment here. You will brighten my day by doing so. Thank you.

Buy the hardback version here
Buy the paperback version here

20 thoughts on “Artaserse: The Graphic Novel

  1. The Idle Woman says:

    Meritxell: Thank you so much Meri – as one of the people for whom this was originally created, I'm very happy you're enjoying it. Thanks too for checking up on me throughout the process of writing it, to make sure that I'm still alive and getting enough sleep. 😉 I appreciate it x

  2. Baroque Bird says:

    Dear Leander, now I'm pretty sure you know how I feel about your comic from Twitter and other channels (something along the lines of, “SQUEAL! EXCITED! MORE! WHEN?!”), but I felt it appropriate to comment as well on the actual page where the comic has been appearing. I think it's fantastic. I think it's great (and very brave!) when someone decides to take something that has been done over 100 times by various very talented people and make it their own – and succeeds. It's no mean feat, and I know the time and energy that have gone into it, so BRAVA, a million times, brava *enthusiastic standing ovation style clapping, with the occasional, most unbecoming “whoop”*.

    It's been a pleasure watching it develop over the past few months, and even more so actually reading it and realising how much more is going on in the story than one might think from just seeing or hearing the opera. The Appendix, I think, is brilliant addition – it shows how much thought and research you have put into this, and how interesting the characters in the opera were in real life. (Not mentioning any librettists in particular, but you didn't need to make up two characters in order to make it an engaging romp through history.) I hope you've enjoyed making the comic as much as your audience has enjoyed reading it! Now for your next project, I have a few ideas for what they could be… 😉 xxx

  3. The Idle Woman says:

    Baroque Bird: Thank you very, very much. And not just for the comment, but for your good nature in dealing with months of me being a complete grump and ball of stress while I tried to juggle work with what turned out to be a second full-time job. Oh, and for being a guinea pig for various sections of course. And suggesting that the duet would work so much better if there was a balcony involved beforehand. I would thank you for the inspiration for the hat, but I believe that my Arbace came first. But I am grateful for your (continuing) exemplary patience every time I turn up with a new story about how wonderful Megabyzus was and what a swine Metastasio was for not writing the opera differently.

    I'm interested to hear your ideas for the next project, but I'm not making any promises. Indeed, I intend to stay well away from crazy projects for the forseeable future, lest I drive myself completely mad. That means that the pirate 'Xerxes' might not be making an appearance for some years, I'm afraid… 😉

  4. Anna and Paweł says:

    Finally! After the months of waiting, there it is! The excellent story in three acts, happening in the magnificent interiors of the palace at Susa. It's all here: betrayal, bloodshed, love, friendship, plots and unexpected twists; depicted with the tinsel of glamorous costumes and decorations. All told with verve but also immaculate taste. With the addictive action going on briskly and all the characters maintaining coherent personality traits (which must have been a challenge considering how inconsistent the libretto of the opera is), the whole story is full of some kind of mesmerism. Is it possible to look at Mandane and resist her? I can not do that – she totally captivated my heart. 😉
    It was worth the wait for the final result for these endlessly extending months. The effect of combining the Baroque opera libretto, which is based on the story taken directly from the ancient Persia, with a modern form of the graphic novel is intriguing. The combination of such different and distant worlds was risky and could easily clash, but instead they interacted and opened up to each other. It is no longer a schematic opera seria now, but an interesting and well-told story presented in a very accessible form.
    Special thanks to you for creating The Appendix. It allows the reader to open his eyes and see the true story beyond the smooth and fairy tale-like surface. Something that seemed quite obvious suddenly becomes uncertain. Evil becomes good, and good – evil. 😉 And it is the reading of the Appendix that makes the reader realize exactly how much work you put into learning about the period, the historical sources, and the fates of individual characters.
    It is really something precious that you wanted to give to the others, the closer and more distant friends as well as completely anonymous ones, something from yourself – your knowledge, talent, sense of humor, but also the time and effort, sleepless nights, swollen eyes and unconscious mornings ;). I really appreciate this and I thank you very much for all this.

    I look forward to another equally successful projects. Good luck!

  5. The Idle Woman says:

    Anna and Paweł: Ah, you two have been brilliant. You've really taken the project to heart over the last few months and your support has been wonderful. I couldn't have asked for a more enthusiastic and engaged trio of critics than you and Baroque Bird. Your gallant interest in Mandane reassured me at moments when I thought she was coming across as such a harridan that no one would feel any affection for her. 🙂 And sincere thanks for your comments on the Appendix. I'm so pleased that's gone down well. Bit by bit, I'm determined to do what I can to tell these wonderful real-life stories that I keep coming across. Honestly, Baroque opera and blood-soaked Jacobean theatre have nothing to match them. We'll see what other projects I think of in the future, but don't hold your breath. I don't expect that'll stop the excited emails though 😉

  6. la Clarina says:

    This was wonderful! I'm awed at the amount of work, and love the clever take on the libretto, and the characters, and the visuals… Quite brilliant. And yes: one can't, and can't, and can't have the duel between hero and villain offstage… what was Metastasio thinking?
    Also, being endlessly fascinated by the way opera “retells” history, I very much enjoyed the historical appendix.
    Thank you for sharing.

  7. The Idle Woman says:

    La Clarina: Thank you so much! As to the duel, I think the opera would have been even better if we'd had an Errol Flynn-Basil Rathbone-style swashbuckler in the final act, although I suppose the exuberant costumes would have got in the way slightly. (I can't tell you how difficult it was to resist the urge in the comic to have someone swinging on a chandelier. Fortunately sanity prevailed.)

    I'm very grateful for your lovely blog posts about the comic, and your excitement about the final Act – it was great to be able to work on it knowing that people were looking forward to seeing what happened. And I'm also very happy to learn from your blog that the historical appendix left you wanting to know more about the real people. That was a bit of a gamble, but as a historian I couldn't just lie quiet and let Metastasio get away with his hatchet job…

  8. artaserseredipersia says:

    My dear subject

    It has come to my attention that you perhaps do not hold me in as high regard as you ought. At the very least, you have overlooked some of my most endearing attributes which render me a far superior character to all the others in this opera, and indeed most of the other monarchs in operas.

    First of all, let’s remember Metastasio chose me to be the subject of his play. There’s no arguing with genius, and Metastasio was a genius. Now, some may say it was just that Metastasio was having a particularly inspired period when he wrote the libretto of the story of my ascension to the throne, but he wasn’t the only one who regarded my life as worthy of a libretto. Your fellow countryman Thomas Arne wrote some smashing lyrics. For example, “Though oft a cloud with envious shade/ Conceals the face of day,/ The sun is still in flames array’d,/ His beams immortal not decay’d.”. If you think really hard about these words, you’ll realise that Daddy had to hide under a tree to escape my brilliance, but that only sheltered him rather than caused me to shine any less. Louis XIV didn’t have anything on me.

    And no one forced anyone to name the opera after me; after all, it could have been called “Arbace” or “Chandelier” or “Poisoned Chalice”, after some other important elements of the opera. But no – Mestastasio made it about me. Because, quite frankly, in Baroque opera, there are a million Arbaces and chalices (and probably chandeliers too), but there is only one me.

    Personality-wise, I am well suited to ruling. I am decisive. Look at the speed with which I moved to punish my brother when I was told he had murdered our father in cold blood. (Yes, I know that he didn’t do it, but at the time, that was the best information I had.) Just translate that swift thinking and action onto the battlefield. The Return of the King would have only been 90 minutes long instead of 3 hours and change if I had been in charge. I attribute my longevity in no small part in my ability to take action when necessary, and to do it swiftly.

    And look at how quickly I was to admit fault and show great remorse when I realised that it was not Dario who had committed this atrocity, and again when I realised that Arbace had not either. Look at the great mercy I showed when I didn’t lop off Megabise’s head for his treachery.

    I am not some cynical tyrant who is suspicious of everyone. When people tell me something, I don’t start interrogating them or treating them as inherently unreliable or untrustworthy people. I like to think that not everyone in my court is out to kill one another, or, heaven forbid, me. Why would anyone want to kill nice, wonderful, drop-dead gorgeous me? I believed Artabano when he told me that Arbace murdered my father, and trusted that he wouldn’t poison my drink. I believed Arbace was innocent, despite the evidence against him. If I weren’t so trusting, I wouldn’t have kept him alive for so long. Think of it as a counter-balance to my decisiveness; the two together make me an excellent king.

    I feel the pain of my people because I care about them. They all expect me to outshine the enemy. I won’t disappoint them. Quite unlike that other chap who could not get into his head that dear, sweet Semira loved me, not him, and spent several arias, nay, acts pining after and pursuing the lovely lady. He was a bit of a disappointment. And a traitor and liar. So glad he was a much better person in real life, although I never want to go on a hunt with him again. Hmpf. Excellent soldier and strategian though. See how sensitive I was to Mandane’s feelings at the end of Act II. I just knew that while she said she wanted Arbace’s head on a plate, in reality, she was conflicted, just like I was. Just think of what would have happened if I wasn’t in tune with her feelings! And it’s not just my nearest and dearest! Look how I treated Themosticles when he got booted out of Athens. Look how I treated Nehemiah my cupbearer when I sensed his sadness of heart.

    But I’m not just the king; I’m also an all-around good guy. Even you admit I’m nice! Not sure about the “generally” bit though – are you sure you didn’t mean “genuinely”? I look after my friends. Look how I sneaked Arbace out of prison in Act III. (Yes, I know I was the one who put him there in the first place, but details, schmetails.) As you point out on this page, I indulge my friends when they go off on extended metaphorical, musical rants – most of the time without rolling my eyes, although I sometimes succumb by the time it gets to Act III. It sometimes seems like he’s repeating the same thing over and over again except a little bit more floridly each time, or is it just me? I’m only human. But still the king. Semira thinks I’m sweet. I probably like kittens too. Mandane hasn’t stamped on my foot yet, and you know how she can get. Quite unlike her, I am more moderate and measured in my approach to people. Much, much more personable *ducks from vase coming at speed from stage right*.

    Nothing shows more that I am the epitome of modesty (as one loyal subject describes me), than the self-sacrifice I made in the opera itself. Not content with taking all the glory by being the title character, I generously allowed my best friend to have a spectacular aria at the end of Act I, and also to let him have a duet with Mandane in the third. (He was meant to declare his undying love and to sweep her off her feet, but there is absolutely no helping some people – private setting, mood lighting, sweeping string arrangements, Italian poetry… and he still managed to not convince her.) When Semira and I dressed up to sing Stabat Mater in a distant land, I even let her have top billing. Aren’t I the bestest best friend and boyfriend ever?

    And my cheekbones. My cheekbones! You cannot have just made those up. They must be based on some historical fact. Of all people in this world, you would not do anything that was not historically accurate. Every time I look at the pictures you have made of me in the comic, it makes me want to burst into song. This song, in fact: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7-vDjwautM And now I want to toss my beautiful head so my salon perfect hair shimmers in the glow of the Persian sunset. (Eat your heart out, Prince George, you’re not the only cute royal blonde on the planet.)

    So you see, I am everything you could possibly want in a monarch. Feel free to grovel and perform obeisance at your convenience. I shall be waiting. Not very patiently, because I am not accustomed to being so, but waiting nonetheless in great expectation.

    Yours etc
    Artaserse
    re di Persia

    PS Love the comic!!!

  9. Mandane says:

    Brother, dearest, you know perfectly well she can’t reply to you. No mortals may dare address the King of Kings without standing on a golden brick, apart from me and Mummy, because you wouldn’t dare make us. No doubt she’s quivering in her sandals and prostrating herself at this very moment. It has come to my attention, however, that I am very well able to answer some of these charges on her behalf, poor rustic, simple creature that she must be.

    Now, my grasp of opera must be about as good as yours, considering we died two thousand years before it was invented, but I believe it’s customary to name an opera after the most illustrious character in it. And that, since Daddy gets killed off before the opening credits, is you. A little bird tells me that in order to deserve such an honour, you have to give up all the decent arias. Since my beloved Arbace would much rather show off his three octaves than worry about the order of names, I think everyone had what they deserved. But you’re right, my love. There is only one you, and thank goodness for that. If all monarchs were like you, there’d be mutiny everywhere and we’d never be safe. And you might think twice before smuggling your friends out of prison and not saying a word to anyone about it, because other people might get rather upset by sudden unexplained disappearances.

    Some other thoughts. You know nothing about women, obviously. If I say I want Arbace’s head on a plate, I want it on a plate. Or at least I want him to get close enough to a plate that he never argues with me again. And there’s a very fine line, brother dear, between ‘personable’ and ‘vapid’. Take a long hard look at your lovely wife at some point. Although perhaps not *that* closely, otherwise you’ll notice her rather thick eyebrows. And of course you couldn’t lop off Megabise’s head, you fool, because he’d already been nobly killed in one-to-one combat by the light of my life. *Sighs* Do try to remember things for more than a few seconds before getting distracted by your own reflection.

    Naturally, modesty forbids me to speak of Megabise’s real-life incarnation, save to stress that without him neither you nor I would be here, and that you could have done well by acting rather *less* decisively towards him. But I grant the fact that ostracised Greeks and the people of Jerusalem always found a ready place in your heart.

    My chamberlain is waiting. Must go to a tedious meeting about redecorating Persepolis again.

    Your beloved sister.

    • artaserseredipersia says:

      Sister

      How good of you to take the time away from your re-decorating to speak for a lowly, misguided scribe. Alas, I fear that it is all in vain, as she is still wrong, and I am, as always, right.

      How right Metastasio was that I was the most illustrious character in the story! That fact cannot be denied. However, that would not, of itself, deprive me of the opportunity to have a few cracker arias. Daddy had an opera named after him, and he wasn’t self-effacing enough to protest the inclusion of at least three most memorable arias to be sung by himself; Handel and Stampiglia were only too happy to oblige. Can anyone remember what the others sang? I thought not. Ahhh Daddy. The shady fronds of his favourite tree in the garden are still going strong. As you well know, I am not as skilled in the art of gardening as he, but I am grateful that I have at least managed to keep this tree alive and well.

      I don’t need three octaves to show that I’m great. Why, I’ve been described as being “poised and delicate”, and possessing impressive breath control and command of coloratura. My voice possesses a certain “delicacy and clarity”, and has been liked to a crystal knife. (I’m sure some would think that certain other aspects of my singing were crystal clear, but here is not the time and place for that discussion.) Just ask that mortal pal of yours. Or her quack of a friend.

      *Sigh* And here I was thinking you’d be grateful I got Arbace out. That coldness of heart and lack of level-headedness you demonstrated at the end of Act II was really most unbecoming and unlike you, sister. I know you’re meant to be the feisty, fiery one (and you perform that role very well – my ears, and half of Persia’s too, are still ringing from that aria at the end of Act I that wasn’t even directed at me), and that you were just confused by all the conflicting emotions and stories and everything but even I did not show such callousness to the man I regard as my brother in all but name. I was hopeful that he might soothe your worries and reassure you that all would be well, both in your lives and in Persia, but I perhaps had a bit too much faith in his abilities and your intuitiveness to figure out what he *really* meant. Did you really think I would lop off his head that easily? I’d already lopped off our brother’s head earlier; I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. I would have at least told you if I had lopped off Arbace’s head. And I wouldn’t have put it on a plate. I’ve seen what you have done to plates. They either get smashed into a million tiny pieces, or get imprinted with the facial features of the poor sod who happens to be closest to you. No, for everyone’s sake, especially Arbace’s, I made the right decision in ignoring you. It was a wise decision on my part to choose this course of action than try to fight with you; it is an imprudent man who thinks he stands a chance against you. Much easier to tell Mummy about it and watch the fireworks from afar.

      I can’t help it if I keep looking at myself. I blame the servants for polishing the armoury and spoils of war that I have amassed in my short but illustrious military career. Don’t say I don’t pick good generals to fight wars for me. On that note, while I remember, perhaps you should take a look at Babylonian wallpaper for Persepolis. They have some nice blue wallpaper with a lovely lion pattern all over it. A bit dated, but still rather chic. Makes a nice change from grey marble. At any rate, I look forward to seeing the fruits of your labour in due course.

      And not a word against dear, sweet Semira! Forget not, sister, that she is your queen. She is the kindest, most beautiful, most innocent person I have ever known. What would Arbace think if he heard you speak in this way of his sister? What would Semira think if she knew you, her trusted friend who always get diverted on a million other tasks for hours before finding her in a game of hide and seek, said such things of her? Think of all the tear-soaked, over-hugged kittens in the world that would result. Whatever you may think of her, I beg of you, consider this: does she not remind you sometimes of our father? There’s something about her that makes me think they were both cut from the same cloth, that they share some magical musical connection. And sometimes, the way she plays the fiddle and has singing contests with members of her waiting staff feels almost prophetic. But maybe it’s just me. She is an enigma – a beautiful, generous-of-heart enigma, with hidden depths I know exist, though I have yet to find any proof of them. I love her dearly.

      You’re just jealous because I got Mummy’s cheekbones and all you got was her temper. Ah well, we must be content with our lot, musn’t we?

      BTW are you sure Arbace killed Megabise? Because I was so sure that I saw him right after we had sorted out the whole who-killed-Daddy thing and had a little sing-song to close off the whole matter. As to Megabise’s real-life incarnation, let it be recorded that he was an honourable man but that he was a bit slow on the rules of lion hunts. We shall focus our attentions on the less admirable one in the opera.

      Yours in a swishing frock coat and embroidered rococo shoes
      Artaserse

      PS Like your profile pic. I had to choose a mortal representation for mine, because anything closer to reality would have broken the internet with its beautifulness.

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