The Sunday Opera: George Frideric Handel's "Partenope"
We’re going for Baroque on this week’s Sunday Opera (5/21 3:00 p.m.) with a 1730 work by George Frideric Handel that isn’t done all that often; it’s “Partenope” which features a libretto based on a 1699 work by Silvio Stampiglia which had been used for many previous operas.
Taking place in the Naples of “antiquity,” Queen Partenope (Rosemary Joshua) finds that she is besieged by four suitors. The timid Armindo, Prince of Rhodes (Stephen Wallace), cannot bring himself to tell Partenope how much he loves her, but he gets his chance to show her. The forceful Prince Emilio of Cumae (Kurt Streit) shows up with his army and threatens war if Partenope doesn’t choose him, and finally, Prince Arsace of Corinth (Lawrence Zazzo) has been pleasantly forceful enough to seem to be Partenope’s obvious choice.
However, Arsace comes with a bit of baggage. He seems to have forgotten to tell Partenope that he left his fiancé, Princess Rosmira of Cypress (Hilary Summers) at the altar in order to pursue Partenope. Rosmira will not be ignored, and she appears in Partenope’s court disguised as a man, Eurimene, and claims to be a suitor in order to try to thwart Arsace’s wooing of the queen and win him back.
Christian Crunyn conducts The Early Opera Company in this recording which, by the way, has a happy ending for most of those involved.
After the opera, host Michael Kownacky has planned a bit more of the music of Handel which includes a suite from another of Handel’s forgotten operas, “The Faithful Shepherd,” in a lovely orchestral arrangement by Sir Thomas Beecham. Handel performed by a full orchestra is quite an experience.