Partenope at the English National Opera
Christopher Alden directed this Olivier award winning 2008 production and it still looks as fresh as a daisy. His revival lighting designer this time was Kevin Sleep, who ensured a very visual and colourful production using the change of lighting to good effect, particularly in act 2. The original designer, Andrew Lieberman, ensured we enjoyed a clever circular set and the costume designer, Jon Morrell, gave us a wonderful 1920s look and feel about the cast. In other words, it all worked.
The conductor, Christian Curnyn, is a consummate Handel conductor and it showed. He controlled the orchestra – not on original instruments, which is a shame – beautifully and never overpowered the singers, always allowing them sufficient time for the rhyme. His was a pacey account, which is what is required of the music.
The singers were led by the Partenope of the wonderful Sarah Tynan, whose debut it was in the role. She was a sexy Partenope, playing with her men – or was it women – with great ease and surety, but showed us plenty of vulnerability in her second act aria ‘I might be flighty, but I’m not stupid’ particularly in contemplating which of the men she loves, or thinks she loves, or will be right for her. There were some wonderful scenes, particularly with the use of the ‘privy’, when Emilio listening for Partenope, who was in privy mode said ‘I hear her’. This comedy was part of the charm of this production.
In this Handel performance, which can be quite dour in other productions, Christopher Alden has introduced lots of comedy to keep our attention and our minds on the action. The Emilio was meant to be sung by Robert Murray, but having fallen heavily down the stairs he was indisposed and so his place was taken by a remarkably good replacement in Rupert Charlesworth, who has only previously sung some minor roles at ENO. However, he is a Handel competition winner and his voice is very suited to the role. His debut bodes well for his future career. The Arsace of the Irish mezzo soprano, Patricia Bardon, was also beautifully sung and really came into her own in her great aria ‘Raging Destruction’, as was the Ormonte of the baritone, Matthew Durkan, who is a graduate of the National Opera Studio. The counter tenor, James Lang, who eventually gets his girl, replaced the 2008 Armindo, sung by the wonderful Lestyn Davies. He had a hard act to follow, but as with the other all British cast, he performed his role well. Stephanie Windsor Lewis sung Rosmira with great gusto. She has a deep thoughtful mezzo soprano and already has some international experience, particularly in Italy, which is standing her in good stead.
A word too for the translation by Amanda Holden ‘you can be such a turd don’t say another word’. She has been back to ENO many times with her translations and they are always fulsome, to the point and where necessary extremely funny.
Overall a good night.
With kind regards,
Wednesday, 15 Mar 2017