Post Cards from the Edge Handel’s Partenope - Tuesday, 7:30 pm October 21, 2014 - War Memorial, San Francisco | Welcome to Fred’s Home Page

Handel’s Partenope - Tuesday, 7:30 pm October 21, 2014 - War Memorial, San Francisco


OK, this is was weird opera - at least as produced by the San Francisco Opera.  Handel's Partenope, as originally performed was probably pretty sedate but as performed by SFO, it was peculiar to the extreme.

Rosmira is looking for her ex-lover Arsace, who jilted her.  She finds him in the kingdom ruled by Partenope.  To find him out, she dresses as a man.  So far it's not unusual for opera but SFO places the time in the Art Deco period with Erte style dresses, chain smoking and drinking and poker games.  

In time Arsace recognizes his ex-lover and Rosmira obtains a promise from him not to expose her disguise.  Meanwhile, Armindo is in love with Partenope as well but doesn't have a chance as long as Arsace is around, so he becomes an ally of Rosmira.  

Oh, did I mention the kingdom is about to go to war with another kingdom led by Emilio who plays the role of a paparazzo.  You know he gets pictures of Rosmira in the nude!  

Ormonte plays a pretty straight up role until the final act.  Rosmira challenges Arsace to a duel and Ormonte comes out in drag with swords to start the duel.  Rosmira is undone when Arsace demands to duel bare chested.   The end is a dual wedding of Rosmira and Arsace and Partenope and Armindo. 

Thrown into the mix is tap dancing and most of the second act around a water closet with tons of toilet paper. 

Arsace and Armindo are sung by countertenors.  I have heard them sing on tv before but never in a live role.  Countertenors are male singers in the range of contraltos or mezzo-sopranos.  It was disconcerting but so was the entire opera, so in a way, they fit in.  Both countertenors are nationally known and both sang beautifully.  

Danielle de Niese, in the role of Partenope, was good but she seemed to struggle at the beginning. By the second act, she had warmed up and she really shined in Act III.  The vocal range Handel requires of Partenope would make the role difficult for anyone.

Image from San Francisco Opera website.

© Fred Searcy 2017