|ENO - Handel: Partenope - Patricia Bardon, Matthew Durkan, Stephanie Windsor-Lewis, Sarah Tyana|
(Photo Donald Cooper)
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Mar 15 2017
A musically sparkling revival of ENO's stylish 1920s production with Sarah Tynan stunning in the title role
|Rupert Charlesworth, Sarah Tynan (Photo Donald Cooper)|
|ENO - Handel: Partenope - James Laing (Photo Donald Cooper)|
I remain less convinced by the production. Though Alden's idea of using Paris in the 1920s makes an imaginative setting, he does not seem to have made the best of it. The 'battle' at the opening of Act Two, with its obsession with the flat's one lavatory,, was inadequate and by Act Three's duel Alden seemed to be throwing everything at the production.
Though Partenope is a comedy, it is very much a comedy of character, satirising the expected opera seria stereotypes. But Alden, with the aid of Amanda Holden's witty translation, has added layers of verbal and physical comedy which verged on the distracting.
|Stephanie Windsor-Lewis (Photo Donald Cooper)|
Thankfully the performances from the cast filled in a lot of the gaps, and all concerned performing with a sense of strong engagement and admirably dead-pan commitment, even at the most 'Ministry of Silly Walks' moments.
Sarah Tynan was a spectacularly stylish Partenope singing with crystalline fluency and rightly the centre of attention, inhabiting the role both musically and physically. She wore the clothes to the manner born and created a real sense of brittle character; once past her opening aria where Curnyn's fast speed seemed excessive, she combined some pin-point coloratura with lovely lyric moments and singing of great poignancy. Tynan really captured Partenope's wayward charm and changeability. I hope we see her in Handel again soon, how about a revival of Alcina with Tynan as Morgana.
Stephanie Windsor-Lewis made a strong, sympathetic Rosmira, the opera's most complex character. Windsor-Lewis brought out Rosmira's conflict between her love for and anger at Arsace (Patricia Bardon). She was stunning in Rosmira's aria which closed Act One, combining passion and power (though Alden's staging did her little justice). And this was a performance which grew in intensity throughout the evening.
Part of Handel's comedy is that there is nothing heroic about the two leading male characters, we only ever see Arsace involved in the toils of love and he never does anything heroic, whilst Armindo is profoundly timid. And both get involved in the unseemly squabble at the end of the battle over who has the credit for rescuing Partenope and capturing Emilio.
|ENO - Handel: Partenope - Patricia Bardon (Photo Donald Cooper)|
Armindo is the most comic character, as Handel plays the role against type with Armindo being a timid wimp yet he gets the girl at the end. James Laing was completely delightful in the role, and his dumb-struck expression in Act Three when he did get the first was priceless. And Laing is a fine Handel stylist too, singing Armindo's arias with aplomb.
Rupert Charlesworth took over the role of Emilio at less than a week's notice (Robert Murray had to stand down on doctor's orders), but you would not have known it. His voice brought a dark glittering brilliance to Handel's virtuosic writing, particularly in the thrilling Act Two aria. Emilio is always an on-looker, and having the character as Man Ray emphasised this though I wondered how much an audience member would deduce if they had not read the programme book.
Matthew Durkan was a strong Oronte, playing the Lytton Strachey idea for all it was worth, and singing Oronte's one aria with style.
|ENO - Handel: Partenope Act 3 (Photo Donald Cooper)|
Delays in both intervals meant that the performance over-ran considerably and a number of people left at the second interval, a reminder that full length Handel opera remains something of a challenge outside of festival conditions. But I was pleased to note that ENO included two intervals so that the structure of the piece was recognised.
This was a strong revival, British Handel opera at its best, and it was clear that Christopher Alden's vividly (over-) theatrical production pleased many in the audience.
Elsewhere on this blog:
- We're crowdfunding for Quickening, a disc of new settings of Rowan Williams, AE Housman, Ivor Gurney, Christina Rossetti by Robert Hugill coming out on the Navona Records label, please visit http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/quickening
- Festa Veneziana: Schola Cantorum of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School - concert review
- Youth Brahms: Serenades from Gävle on Ondine - Cd review
- Birthday double bill: Noah Mosley's Mad King Suibhne and L'Ospedale at Bury Court Opera - Opera review
- Live in HD: La traviata from the Met - Opera review
- Intoxicating mix: ZRI's Schubert at the Red Hedghog - CD review
- Pointed delight: Gilbert & Sullivan's Patience from ETO
- Its heart in the right place: ETO's Tosca - Opera review
- Sacred and Profane: Netherlands Chamber Choir and Peter Dijkstra - Concert review
- Shedding light on a forgotten Romantic: Mehul's Uthal - CD review
- Sunday afternoon delights: I Musicanti at St John's Smith Square - concert review