Partenope – Opera in three acts to a libretto by Silvio Stampiglia [sung in Italian]

Partenope – Inger Dam-Jensen
Rosmira – Tuva Semmingsen
Arsace – Andreas Scholl
Armindo – Christophe Dumaux
Emilio – Bo Kristian Jensen
Ormonte – Palle Knudsen

Concerto Copenhagen
Lars Ulrik Mortensen (harpsichord)

Reviewed by: Melanie Eskenazi

Reviewed: 19 July, 2009
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

This is a tale of a warrior-queen with three suitors, written around the voices of Anna Strada and Antonio Bernacchi, and only recently given a fascinating production by English National Opera. “Partenope” is a fairly intimate work despite its bellicose concerns; indeed it has aspects of a chamber opera, so giving it in a concert performance in so vast a space as the Royal Albert Hall presents problems of scale and audibility, not all of which were surmounted.

Andreas Scholl. Photograph: Eric LarrayadieuMost people in the audience were probably there to hear Andreas Scholl in the role of Arsace. He threw himself totally into the part, sometimes to hilarious, sometimes to poignant effect, and he sang with the most wonderful projection, clarity, intimacy and florid skill. The lovely Act One arioso, ‘O Eurimene ha l’idea di Rosmira’ was phrased with elegant subtlety, the lines seeming to echo Arsace’s confusion about his beloved, and the terrifying closing aria of Act Two, ‘Furibondo spira il vento’, was sung with fluent management of the rapid divisions as well as fiery expressiveness. However it was the deeply emotional aria ‘Ch’io parta? Sì, crudele’ which drew from Scholl his most wonderful singing, the phrase “ma senza cor” (but without my heart) woven mesmerisingly into the voice, each repeat seeming to deepen the anguish.

None of the other singers could even approach Scholl’s level, although the Rosmira of Tuva Semmingsen and Christophe Dumaux’s Armindo had more colour and life than the adequate but unexciting Emilio of Bo Kristian Jensen and Ormonte of Palle Knudsen. Inger Dam-Jensen’s heroine was feisty in character but often rather pallid in her arias; perhaps it was unfortunate for her that she followed Rosemary Joshua into this venue in terms of prom concerts (Haydn’s “The Creation!) for she is probably ‘the’ Partenope of today.

Lars Ulrik Mortensen directed a lively performance, obtaining fervent commitment from his players even if ensemble was a little ragged at times.

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