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Cat. No. CHAN 0719(3) Price: £21 No. of discs: 3
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CHAN 0719 - Handel: Partenope
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Available From: 09 May 2005
"The plot of Partenope is simple but offers plenty of scope for emotional intensity, insightful characterisation, wit, sexual innuendo, and profound despair. Partenope is the Queen of the newly founded city Naples, and she is loved by three suitors: Emilio, Armindo and Arsace. Emilio is the military-minded leader of a neighbouring kingdom, and wishes to command Partenope to love him. Partenope is indifferent to Emilio, and though she is fond of Armindo, Arsace is her chosen favourite. However, Arsace was previously betrothed to Princess Rosmira, who turns up at court disguised as a man, ‘Eurimene’.Arsace recognises her and becomes confused about which woman he loves. He privately confronts Rosmira and she forces him to swear, on pain of her revealing his infidelity, that he will keep her identity secret.T hroughout the rest of the opera, Rosmira wreaks her chaotic revenge on him.

The story of Partenope was set many times during the early eighteenth century, and it is likely that Handel attended a performance of Antonio Caldara’s Partenope while he was at the Venice Carnival in 1708.The music of this opera is now lost but its libretto was certainly the model which Handel chose for his own setting over two decades later, despite his familiarity with at least two more recent adaptations including Leonardo Vinci’s La Rosmira fedele.The work had appealed to Handel’s dramatic instinct and musical imagination. He had wanted to produce his own version of it in 1726, but the Royal Academy rejected his proposal – probably because of the opera’s irreverent treatment of the serious style, which it had struggled to establish in London: in Partenope the leading man,Arsace, is neither virtuous nor evil, but weak and morally flawed, and he struggles to earn forgiveness from Rosmira, a cross-dresser obsessed with revenge. Handel assumed artistic control of the Academy in 1729, and it cannot be coincidence that he composed Partenope, arguably one of the finest librettos he ever set, so shortly afterwards.

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Reviews

The cast has no weak links, and Curnyn directs a performance devoid of the mannerisms and quirks of some Handelians
The Sunday Times

… Christian Curnyn has as infallible a sense of tempo and musico-dramatic shape… as the composer himself.The orchestral playing is light-fingered, colourful and sprightly, and the company commands a roster of the best singers among the younger generation of Handelians.
The Times

Handel collectors needn’t hesitate
Guardian

Listening to these discs has reminded me of full of enchanting music ‘Paretnope’ is…. In sum, then, if you have the Kuijken set, you don’t need to throw it away, but anyone new to this delightful opera should give the Chandos set – in state-of-the-art sound – a try. Die-hard Handelians, of course, will want both.
International Record Review

Handel’s 1730 opera is a genial and light-hearted affair that tells of Queen Partenope’s struggle to choose between three suitors. Rosemary Joshua gives a warm, intelligent and beautifully characterised account of the title role (her aria ‘Spera e godi’, in which she speaks of two lovers in turn is a triumph). The rest of the singing is all good, and Curnyn’s direction is lively and well-paced.
Classic FM

Christian Curnyn, our most original Handelian, directed the small band with his usual intense concentration and a sense of style and pacing.
The Times on their performance of Handel’s Amadigi at the Iford Festival

All in all it was a superb musical performance and a tantalising glimpse of an alternative approach to baroque opera.”
"Andante.com on the Company’s performance of Handel’s Partenope at Covent Garden, Buxton and Aldeburgh."

Christian Curnyn conducts a highly competent performance thoroughly in the groove of modern Handelian style, with a cast that has no vocal weaknesses and many dramatic virtues.
Gramophone

The singers are generally excellent: Rosemary Joshua deploys vocal beauty to advantage in her portrayal of the charismatic Queen of Naples, Hilary Summers’s powerful contralto is ideal for the vengeful but ultimately forgiving Rosmira, and Lawrence Zazzo has the virtuosity and emotional range to make the best of the penitent Arsace, contrasting with the soft-grained countertenor of Stephen Wallace as Armindo, the modest prince who finally gain’s Partenope’s affection.
Early Music Review

 

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