Partenope, Iford Opera

HANDEL’S opera Partenope, first seen in 1730 and written in English, is one of the barmiest of the 55 he wrote, but perhaps ideal for the “me too” year.

Performed by Iford Opera accompanied by Contraband, under the direction of Christopher Bucknall, it’s the story of the powerful and adventurous queen of Naples and her phalanx of lovers.  The one she likes best, Arsace, ditched his previous fiancee. But he hasn’t mentioned that to our Partenope, who doesn’t have much truck with that sort of behaviour.

The heartbroken Rosmira, disguised as a young soldier Eurimene, turns up at the Neapolitan court, just as yet another Partenope suitor, Emilio, is preparing to take the queen and her country by military force. After physical skirmishes and a lot of soul searching, it all comes right in the end.

As always with Handelian opera, you think you recognise the tune – because the composer not only borrowed inspiration from his contemporaries, but shamelessly reworked his own greatest hits … nothing new there!

Christopher Cowell directs with flair, and the cast includes two Iford Arts New Generation Artists, Alexander Simpson and Beth Margaret Taylor. Alexander, resplendent in a sensational shirt, is a puzzling Arsace, wimpish, petulant and supremely self-justifying, but apparently the “commander” of the charismatic Partenope, played with relish by Galina Averina.

As Rosmira, Beth Margaret Taylor woos and wins everyone in the audience with her expressive performance, subtle from eyebrows to flexible voice.

Jorge Navarro-Colorado, complete with hi-viz pink mohican, is a virile and handsome Emilio, but it’s Tom Scott Cowell who finally gets her majesty.

Partenope continues in the cloister at  Iford Manor on 30th June and 3rd and 4th July, the final Handel before Iford Arts moves on to pastures new.  A few tickets are still available. The final opera of the 2018 season is Madam Butterfly, on from 21st July to 4th August.


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