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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2018 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Opera Review: The Other Magic Garden: Partenope

The garden scene from Partenope. Photo © 2010 New York City Opera

The City Opera closed out its spring season with a strong revival of Handel's Partenope. Baroque opera has been a forte at this house for some time now, and Tuesday night's performance gave listeners the chance to discover some exciting new singers in this under-performed genre. This revival was notable for a strong young cast, and the expert period performance leadershop of Scottish conductor Christian Curnyn in the pit.
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.

Watch a trailer for Partenope here.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.