Partenope 2

On Wednesday night to Partenope again.

It seemed to get a warmer reception than the previous Tuesday, even if some of the enthusiasm sounded a bit like company rush.  For that matter the house seemed a little fuller than the “seats available” on the booking page suggested.

Catherine Carby was back on board and, yes, as you would hope and expect, she did have more to offer, vocally, than Sian Pendry, who stepped in as understudy when I first went.  Jacqueline Dark tired a bit in her first act closer – this (the tiring, not the aria) had something to do with vehemence in English with runs in the lower part of her range, and it must be said it is a pretty taxing number. Diction, incidentally, was commendable in all.

I’m not totally convinced by Handel as a humorist.  Some of it is the vexed question of humour in opera: not many operas are really funny.  The humour can tend to be a bit forced.  It’s when the humour yields to pathos, however contrived, that the opera begins to work, and that really is in the second and third acts.  Nor do I find Partenope herself a particularly sympathetic or attractive character and I’m immune to the charms of EM’s trademark flashing eyes.

Orchestrally, I wonder whether the conductor Christian Curnyn set his standards too low out here in the colonies with a non-early-music band.  The continuo section felt both leaden and wooden and I think they could have been better if more variety and a sometimes lighter or lither approach was encouraged. 

Brisk tempi are all the rage these days, I know, but sometimes they were a bit much for the singers.  Maybe that’s just my usual preference for the slow asserting itself.

The musical charms of the work are undeniable.  On Thursday I found myself  repeatedly humming the opening tag to Partenope’s “butterfly” aria.  Curmyn finished this at a deliberately slightly slower tempo at which it could well have started, for my taste.  Last night and today I’ve even been haunted by another of Partenope’s arias – I can’t now remember the translated text but I have identified it from the score as Voglio amare insin ch’io moro (page 73 of the pdf or 65 of the book). My favourite moment in the performance was Arsace’s Ma quai note di mesti lamenti, though it’s not so hummable – it’s the affect and the moment in the drama which is memorable.

There was a little “life passing” moment which I want to record for my own benefit, though it has little to do with Partenope.

Separately, I ran into T and Dx, who were boys together at the school where I once taught.  I knew that Dx might be there but hadn’t spotted him until T told me he’d seen him from afar.  Dx hadn’t identified T, whose appearance has undergone something of an alteration, though when I described T to Dx subsequently Dx thought that he might have seen him and recognized him without realising who he was.  Is that all too complicated?  As is the way of these things, I still think of them as just youngsters. At 40 they are now both older than I was when I taught them.  Dx was bringing his mother-in-law (visiting from another country) and mother. His mother looks just the same, to me, anyway.

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