Rosmira still loves the man who jilted her, Arsace. He, unfortunately, is in love with beautiful Partenope. As too are Armindo and Emilio. So naturally, Rosmira dresses up as a man and becomes another of Partenope’s suitors, in order to win back Arsace. And that’s before things get really tangled…
One of the most celebrated new productions of Handel’s work in the last decade will return to ENO in March, with the original partnership of Christopher Alden and Christian Curnyn resuming their roles as Director and Conductor respectively. Called ‘riveting’ by The Guardian and ’superb’ by The Sunday Telegraph in a five-star review, the original run won the 2009 Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production.
One of Handel’s outstanding comic works, the tale of Queen Partenope and her three suitors features cross-dressing, mistaken identity and the crazed politics of romance.
In Alden’s production, which has also been seen to great acclaim at the Sydney Opera House and the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House since its London premiere, the action is relocated from mythical ancient Naples to the salons and drawing rooms of the socialite set of twenties Paris, with design inspired by the surrealist photography of Man Ray.
The production will feature an outstanding cast showcasing some of the best British singers at work today, led by Sarah Tynan (’some of the finest baroque singing you’ll hear anywhere’ – The Guardian) in the title role. Sarah’s previous Handel roles at ENO include a ’superbly beautiful’ (Opera Today) Romilda in the 2014 performances of Xerxes, with Marzelline in 2013’s Fidelio and Zerlina in 2012’s Don Giovanni being other highlights. This marks her role debut.
Mezzo soprano Patricia Bardon will sing Queen Partenope’s dashing suitor Arsace. Patricia most recently sang at ENO in 2014 as Mary Magdalene in The Gospel According to the Other Mary, described as ’the performance of her life’ by The Guardian. Her strength as a Handelian has been praised, giving an ’utterly melting’ (New York Times) performance as Zenobia in The English Concert’s 2013 Radamisto.
Countertenor James Laing sings as the shy suitor Armindo. James has previously appeared at ENO as Nireno in Julius Caesar in 2012. He has sung Handel’s operas on numerous other occasions, including as Tirinto in Imeneo for the 2016 Göttingen International Handel Festival and as Medoro for Welsh National Opera’s 2015 Orlando.
Returning ENO favourite Robert Murray sings Emilio, the suitor warring for the Queen’s hand. In addition to his starring roles in The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado, his singing of Handel in Acis e Galatea at Wigmore Hall in 2013 was called ’splendid’ by The Observer.
Rosmira, the former lover of Arsace in disguise as the male Eurimene, is sung by Stephanie Windsor Lewis, who debuted at ENO last year as Suzuki in Anthony Minghella’s production of Madam Butterfly.
The cast is completed by ENO Harewood Artist Matthew Durkan as Ormonte.
Conductor Christian Curnyn is well-known as one of baroque’s foremost interpreters in the UK: ’Find anything exciting happening in period opera in the UK and Curnyn will be involved’ (The Spectator).
He founded the Early Opera Company in 1994 in order to champion the relevance of baroque opera, and has won great acclaim for his recordings and performances in the area since. His most recent Handel conducting at ENO, for 2014’s Rodelinda, was called ’well-nigh flawless’ by The Guardian.
Christopher Alden has directed numerous ENO productions across the years including Norma and The Makropulos Case. He has directed operas across the world, long known for his challenging and innovative concepts.
On top of winning the 2009 Olivier Award for Best New Opera, this production of Partenope won the 2011 Helpmann award for Best Opera in Australia.
The design team of Andrew Lieberman (set) Jon Morrell (costume) and Adam Silverman (lighting) provide the striking surrealist look while the witty English translation is by Amanda Holden.
Partenope opens on Wednesday 15 March 2017 at 7.30pm for 5 performances – 17, 20, 22, 24 March.