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Handel - Partenope
George Frideric Handel, Christian Curnyn, Early Opera Company
Handel - Partenope
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (31) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (27) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (29) - Disc #3


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CD Details

All Artists: George Frideric Handel, Christian Curnyn, Early Opera Company, Rosemary Joshua, Lawrence Zazzo, Hilary Summers, Kurt Streit, Stephen Wallace, Andrew Foster-Williams
Title: Handel - Partenope
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Chandos/Chaconne
Release Date: 6/21/2005
Album Type: Box set
Genre: Classical
Styles: Opera & Classical Vocal, Historical Periods, Baroque (c.1600-1750)
Number of Discs: 3
SwapaCD Credits: 3
UPC: 095115071922

CD Reviews

A Fine New 'Partenope' Missing a Bit of the Humor
Nicholas A. Deutsch | New York, NY USA | 07/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Scattered throughout Handel's long & productive career in Italian opera are several works which challenge the notion of opera seria as invariably heroic & ultra-serious - works like the early 'Agrippina'(1709) & the late 'Serse'(1739).
Like them, 'Partenope'(1730) has a distinct flavor of ironic comedy, which allows Handel to compose a fine score that moves sure-footedly between serious passion & a lighter (though never farcical) view of the foibles of human beings in love. (In his notes to the present set, David Vickers likens 'Partenope' to Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night.) In this, he's helped greatly by the libretto (after Silvio Stampiglia), one of the best he ever set. Altogether, 'Partenope' is a delightful work that deserves to be far better known.
This, the second complete commercial recording of 'Partenope' (see below), is a success. The orchestra of the Early Opera Company - at a basic size of 18 players - makes a positive CD debut under their founder/conductor Christian Curnyn with a well-paced & -played reading of the score, & provide a firm foundation for a strong cast of soloists, who moreover show welcome restraint & good taste in their ornamentation. Soprano Rosemary Joshua (Partenope) gives an outstanding performance, lovely vocally & lively dramatically; counter-tenor Lawrence Zazzo (as her suitor Arsace) is also excellent. As Arsace's jilted lover Rosmira, the dark-voiced alto Hilary Summers excels in the serious arias of jealousy & anger, perhaps less so in the more playful moments. Also, the decision to have her adopt a 'straight' vocal tone when in her male disguise as Eurimene - ie. for 3/4 of the piece - makes it difficult to distinguish her from the 2 counter-tenors in many of the long recitative scenes.
If I have one reservation about this performance, it's that the dramatic irony in the piece is often underplayed, especially in some of the more complicated scenes - for instance, those of Rosmira's repeated public taunting of Arsace (who has unwisely promised not to reveal her true identity).
Turn to the 1979 recording (released on CD in 1990) conducted by Sigiswald Kuijken & to my ears you hear more of the distinct bittersweet, semicomic flavor of 'Partenope.' In particular, both women are outstanding: Kristina Laki is a charming Partenope & Helga Mueller-Molinari a high-spirited Rosmira who enlivens every scene she's in with crisp, forward diction. And the rest of the cast, generally lighter-voiced than on the new recording, is also fine, though admittedly not everyone will warm to Rene Jacobs's voice or style in the role of Arsace. But what really makes this one of my all-time favorite Handel opera recordings is the playing of La Petite Bande under Kuijken: the rhythmic verve is infectious, the shaping of each number impeccable. [Note: This set is not currently available in the U.S. Try] In every other respect, however, this new version is a worthy successor & very enjoyable.
A voice teacher and early music fan
George Peabody | Planet Earth | 11/10/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

Partenope ranks among the best of Handel's London Operas. Its music is consistantly fresh, with memorable tunes and an attractive story. Therefore, it is surprising that the composition has been much neglected in the recording arena. The Early Opera Company has elected to perform this work, hoping to bring it the recognition it deserves.

The Early Opera Company, home to some of the UK'S best young opera singers, is rapidly establishing itself as one of the best purveyors of Handel in England, and they have captivated the Early Music world with their energetic and exciting performances.

QUOTE FROM THE LONDON TIMES: "This opera was one of the first by Handel to enjoy a stylish, 'hisorically informed' performance on disc, with counter-tenors in the alto-castrati and travesty parts and period instruments in the orchestra......this witty, ironic account of the amorous exploits of the founding queen of Naples (Partenope) has hardly a dull moment.....Partenope and her preferred lover, Arsace, sing music of rapt beauty, and dazzling bravura, while the part of the Cypriot princess Rosmira, disguised as the Armenian prince Eurimene,has a showstopping 'hunting' aria with obligato horns. These parts are superbly sung by R. Joshua, L. Zazzo and H. Summers respectively, and K. Streit is a fine Emilio. The cast has no weak links, and Curnyn directs a performance devoid of mannerisms & quirks of some Handelians."

Further comments from RICHARD WIGMORE, LONDON TELEGRAPH: "One or two of C.Curnyn's tempos seem on the cautious side.....R.Joshua catches all of Partenope's sensuality and waywardness....Summers brings a strong, dark contralto to Rosmira's music- more temperment would have made her performance even better, and the volatile L. Zazzo (Arsace) contrasts well with the smooth counter-tenor of Stephen Wallace (Armindo)......"

Not really liking Curnyn's 'Semele' (that came after Partenope), I was pleasantly surprised by this opera production! It was so much more to MY liking, BUT to each his own.

Just an'aside': As Early Music Lovers, you might (if you do not already so do) tune in Radio 3 BBC for their vast offerings particularly in Early Music. For example they are running NOW for seven days the (On opera 3) recent October performance of the English National Opera of "Partenope" with Ainsley, Joshua, Rice, Davies and Gower under the direction of Curnyn. It's really quite excellent.