MUSIC BY George frideric handel
Libretto by Anonymous
Disguises and cross-dressing reveal deep truths about the human heart in Handel’s brilliantly entertaining comedy about Queen Partenope of Naples and her three royal suitors, which features one of his greatest scores. In his Olivier Award-winning production, director Christopher Alden moves the action to 1920s Paris, and the results are never less than riveting. Christian Curnyn, a baroque music specialist praised for his “crisp, fluent conducting” (Financial Times, London), leads a superb cast featuring Danielle de Niese, “a voice seductive enough to woo gods as well as mortals” (The New York Times); David Daniels (Xerxes, 2011), who “has a dramatic flair especially well-suited to Handel’s bursts of vengeance or frenzy” (The New York Times); and Daniela Mack, “a purringly elegant BMW of a singer” (Daily Telegraph, London).
Sung in Italian with English supertitles
Approximate running time: 3 hours, 30 minutes including two intermissions
Pre-Opera Talks are free to ticketholders and take place in the Opera House in the Orchestra section, 55 minutes prior to curtain.
Production originally created by English National Opera and Opera Australia
Audio excerpts ©Chandos Chaconne 2005 (CHAN 0719(3)) / performed by Early Opera Company; Christian Curnyn, conductor
“L’amor ed il destin”/Rosemary Joshua (Partenope); “Io seguo sol fiero”/Hilary Summers (Rosmira); “Vi circonda la Gloria d’Allori”/Rosemary Joshua, Lawrence Zazzo (Arsace), Stephen Wallace (Armindo), Hilary Summers, Andrew Foster-Williams (Ormonte)
* San Francisco Opera Debut
Together with her friends Partenope is enjoying a party at her villa, and the guests praise her qualities as a hostess. An unknown new guest, Rosmira, disguised as Eurimene, is invited to these celebrations by Ormonte.
Arsace is suspicious of the new guest, perplexed by the young man’s resemblance to his former fiancée. Rosmira befriends Armindo and advises him strongly to tell Partenope of his love for her. Rosmira confronts Arsace, who claims he still loves her, but she forces him to vow never to disclose her true identity.
Armindo tries to confess his love to Partenope, but fails. Rosmira embarrasses Arsace in front of everyone, but Partenope reaffirms her loyalty to him. However, he is disconcerted by Rosmira who makes it plain that she wants to disrupt his relationship with Partenope. Emilio, eager to gain the attention of Partenope, challenges her to a war game with him, involving all the others around her. Partenope is determined to prove herself against Emilio in the battle. Arsace, Armindo and Rosmira/Eurimene want to act as personal protectors of Partenope against Emilio. Arsace is worried by Rosmira’s participation in this game, whilst Armindo is confused about her, suspecting that she is a new suitor for Partenope. Rosmira/Eurimene reassures Armindo that she is no rival and is actually hunting a different kind of prey.
The war game takes place and Partenope and Emilio rally their troops. Emilio is defeated and realizes that his chances as a suitor have seriously diminished. Rosmira embarrasses Arsace and claims victory. Emilio bemoans the lack of success of his pursuit of Partenope. Rosmira again embarrasses Arsace in front of everyone, suggesting he might be unfaithful. He is unable to defend himself, afraid that his previous relationship will be disclosed. Partenope is shocked about Rosmira/Eurimene’s audacity, forces her to stop these accusations, but realizes that something strange is happening to Arsace.
Arsace and Rosmira continue to quarrel, and Emilio is intrigued by Rosmira’s behavior. Armindo, gaining confidence, succeeds in expressing his love for Partenope. Because she is slightly growing suspicious of Arsace, Partenope is friendly towards him but does not offer him much hope. Rosmira asks Armindo to organize a meeting with Partenope at which she intends to reveal a secret. Alone again with Arsace, she scorns him. Arsace is torn between Partenope and Rosmira and his fear and despair confuse him more and more.
Rosmira/Eurimene reveals in public to Partenope that a certain Rosmira has sent her. Now Arsace fears a disclosure of her true identity and a subsequent end of his relationship with Partenope. But Rosmira only reveals that this Rosmira has sent her to inform Partenope about the unfaithfulness of Arsace. A devastated Partenope now accuses him of being a traitor. To solve this conflict, Rosmira/Eurimene proposes to confront Arsace in a duel, while Emilio and Armindo propose to assist the two fighters. In a last private encounter, Rosmira dismisses Arsace, who is heart-broken by the unequivocal rejection of his former lover.
Observed by Rosmira and Partenope, Arsace mentions Rosmira’s name in a nightmarish slumber. Again, both women accuse him of betrayal. Ormonte prepares everything for the final battle and the duel is about to start when Arsace, in an unexpected move, suddenly demands that Rosmira fights stripped to the waist, knowing that she cannot do this without giving up her disguise. Rosmira is confounded. Forced by everyone to give in to this request, she confesses her real identity. Partenope is shocked by this revelation and by the fact that Arsace publicly humiliated Rosmira with this confession. Should she dismiss Arsace and turn to Armindo now? Should she leave her unfaithful lover to Rosmira? And should Rosmira accept the man who betrayed her or should she take her freedom? A hymn to love is sung by Partenope and all her guests, but the party is over.
Synopsis by Willem Bruls / Courtesy English National Opera