San Francisco Opera’s production of George Frideric Handel’s Partenope opens at the War Memorial Opera House this evening. A Company premiere, this production – directed by Christopher Alden, with sets by Andrew Lieberman and costumes by Jon Morell – transports Handel’s 1730 comedy opera from ancient Naples to 1920s Paris. It debuted at English National Opera in 2008, has subsequently been presented by Opera Australia in Melbourne and Sydney, and won the ‘Best New Production’ category at the 2009 Olivier Awards in London.
Partenope is a light-hearted work involving romantic entanglements and gender deceptions, a perfect framework for this interpretation which draws its inspiration from the glamour and creativity of the beau mondes who descended on Paris during the 1920s, and the exponents of Surrealism and Dadaism, such as modernist artist, Man Ray.
Lyric soprano Danielle de Niese makes her debut as the glamorous Queen of Naples. Ms de Niese has won widespread acclaim for her performances in operas by Handel – Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Galatea in Acis e Galatea, Atalanta in Xerxes, and the title role in Rodelinda. This production of Partenope marks Ms de Niese’s first appearance with San Francisco Opera since her Company debut as Susannah in the 2010 production of Le Nozze di Figaro.
American counter-tenor David Daniels sings the role of Partenope’s suitor, Arsace, making a return visit to San Francisco Opera following his appearance in the Company’s 2011 production of Handel’s Xerxes. Numbering Arsace amongst his favorite roles, Mr Daniels is also renowned for his many performances in Handel’s operas, having sung the title roles in Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Radamisto and Rinaldo, and appeared as Ottone in Agrippina.
The role of Rosmira is sung by Argentinian mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack, a former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, whose most recent performance with the Company was as Rosina in last season’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Ms Mack, who has won wide acclaim for her many ‘trouser roles’, has appeared with San Francisco Opera as Idamante in Idomeneo and as Siébel in Faust, as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro at Opera Omaha and the Verbier Festival, and as Sesto in Giulio Cesare in Egitto at English National Opera.
Armindo is sung by American countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, making his San Francisco Opera debut. He has, in recent seasons, debuted the roles of Unulfo in Rodelinda at the Metropolitan Opera, Eustazio in Rinaldo at the Glyndebourne Festival, Ottone in Agrippina at Boston Lyric Opera, Tolomeo in Giulio Cesare in Egitto with Michigan Opera Theater and the title role of Tolomeo, Re d’Egitto at Glimmerglass.
American tenor Alek Shrader – also a former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow – makes his role debut as Emilio, another of Partenope’s suitors. Most recently having appeared at San Francisco Opera as Count Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, he has also sung the role at Lyric Opera of Chicago, as well as that of Tamino in Die Zauberflöte at the Metropolitan Opera, and Ernesto in Don Pasquale at Santa Fe Opera. In 2013 Alek Shrader received his first Grammy Award for the Metropolitan Opera’s recording of Thomas Adés’ The Tempest.
Conductor Julian Wachner makes his Company debut in this production. A Baroque specialist, he is director of music and the arts at New York City’s Trinity Wall Street, where he is principal conductor of the Trinity Baroque Orchestra and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street which was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2012 for Handel’s Israel in Egypt. Mr Wachner is also principal conductor of NOVUS NY – the Contemporary Music Orchestra of Trinity Wall Street – and was the founding music director of the Boston Bach Ensemble and the Bach Académie de Montréal, and has served as artistic director of International Bach Festivals in both cities.
Partenope, sung in Italian with English supertitles, runs at the War Memorial Opera House for six performances – from October 15 to November 2. For further information and tickets, visit www.sfopera.com. Tickets may also be purchased from the San Francisco Opera Box Office, 301 Van Ness Avenue (at Grove Street), or by phone on (415) 864-3330.