Partenope, Rare Handel Work, with French Star Philippe Jaroussky, in Paris in January

Partenope, one of Handel’s rarer works, replete with gorgeous arias, will be heard in concert version in Paris in January at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées with French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky in a leading role.

Handel's Partenope, recording session with Philippe Jaroussky & Karina Gauvin (Credit screengrab)

Handel’s Partenope, recording session with Philippe Jaroussky & Karina Gauvin (Credit Screengrab)

The rare concert performance of an opera first staged in London in 1730 is the occasion chosen by  WarnerClassics to launch a 3 CD set featuring Karina Gauvin, Philippe Jaroussky, John Mark Ainsley, the orchestra Il pomo d’oro and Riccardo Minasi (violin and direction).

The video clip below shows a recording session underway and includes interviews (subtitled as necessary) with the musicians and singers:

Published on Nov 9, 2015 Find the 3-CD set on Amazon.

In just over a decade of stunning his concert audiences with the purity, extraordinary range, virtuoso coloratura technique and strength of his soaring sopranist voice, Philippe Jaroussky, 37, France’s leading countertenor, has breathed new life into a Baroque art which in earlier times was the exclusive and controversial preserve of castrati, as we first reported here .

Other stills from the video:

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Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris January 2016
Opera in three acts (1730)
Anoynmous libretto, after Silvio Stampiglia
Riccardo Minasi direction
Philippe Jaroussky – Arsace
Karina Gauvin – Partenope
John Mark Ainsley – Emile
Emöke Baráth – Armindo
Kate Aldrich – Rosmira
Havard Stensvold – Armindo
Il Pomo d’Oro 

The Théâtre des Champs-Elysées writeup for the January 16 performance (bookable here) describes Georg Friedrich Haendel’s Partenope as:
“Sheer seduction … the story of the legendary queen and founder of Naples, courted by three suitors, set to music. In the 1730s, the opera seria model became widespread throughout the whole of Europe and singers, be they sopranos or castrati with head voices, became true divas whose favours were fought over from Naples to St Petersburg. Handel, a popular composer, but also a stunningly talented producer, drew on the huge repertoire of Italian librettos in circulation at the time for his new work Partenope. Leonardo Vinci had enjoyed a resounding success with this libretto five years earlier in Venice and successfully brought the best out of the higher-pitched voices (soprano, castrato and tenor), which were the toast of London audiences. Partenope tells the story of the legendary founding Queen of Naples, who is courted by three suitors (Emilio, Arsace and Amindo). The work is imbued with high seduction and grand theatricality and the inventive musical richness of the Caro Sassone scales the peaks of delicacy. The bloody battles for hearts and on the battlefield alike and a score teeming with energy and wicked charm contains some of the pure vocal gems of which Handel is the undisputed master.”

Below is an extract from an NPR radio review of the opera, See here for full details of the work and its context.

“The text of Handel’s Partenope was adapted from a popular libretto by the writer Silvio Strampiglia. In ancient legend, Partenope — also called Parthenope — was a siren who threw herself into the sea and died after failing to seduce Hercules. As a result, a nearby city — now called Naples — was named after her. And some modern Neapolitans still call themselves “Parthenopians.”

“In the opera, Partenope is the Queen of early Naples, and she has a surplus of potential husbands. As ACT ONE begins, there are three of them. One is Arsace, a handsome young prince. Another is Emilio; he’s the leader of a rival kingdom, and might well be at war with Partenope if he hadn’t fallen in love with her. The third suitor is called Armindo. He’s a well-meaning young man, but hardly a Casanova

“Handel also had his lighter side, and he showed it off in 1730, with a quirky yet richly-scored comic opera called Partenope. Its story revolves around two resourceful women. One is a ditzy queen with a trio of hapless lovers. The other is a jilted bride in search of the guy who dumped her. She shows up disguised as a man, and maintains the ruse until she’s forced to decide between revealing her identity and exposing herself — literally.

“The opera’s premiere, in 1730, was at best a modest success, and even now it’s not among Handel’s most familiar or popular operas. But it does feature several of the composer’s most intriguing characters and some of his finest and most expressive music.”




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