Partenope is one of Handel's early baroque works. It presents, in comic fashion, the struggles of the city of Venice, its queen (the title character) and the attempts of three men to woo her. It is remarkable for having two difficult parts originally written for castrato singers. Today, opera houses use countertenors, but casting the work still presents difficulties in finding two countertenors who can navigate Handel's heights.
Cyndia Sweden gave a bright, sparkling performance in the title role, adroitly juggling men in between as coloratura runs. Her rivals, Arsace, Armindo, and Emilio were played by three fine young singers. Iestyn Davies was Arsace, the cad who spurns his original lover Rosmira for Partenope's hand. This is the more challenging of the two roles and Davies rose to the occasion with a flawless high range and command of the difficult vocal leaps required in Handel's da capo passages.
Anthony Roth Costanzo sang with pathos and delicate beauty as Armindo, the "nice guy" who eventually wins the girl. Tenor Nicholas Coppolo is a rapidly rising star in 18th century repertory. He brought a welcome charge of sexual energy to the proceedings as Emilio, and some fine singing in his Act II aria. Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Houtzel switched genders with ease as Rosmira, the origanal lover of Arsace who spends most of the opera in drag. Finally, baritone Daniel Mobbs sang well as the servant Ormonte, although his character does not have an aria to sing.