Thursday, October 23, 2014

SF Opera: Partenope

This week I saw San Francisco Opera's entertaining production of Handel's Partenope. Director Christopher Alden sets the opera in 1920s Paris, & the audience applauded when the curtain came up on the Corbusier-like set. The playful staging is inspired by Dada absurdism & presents the plot like something by Noel Coward. Physically adept performances are required from the entire cast. Countertenor Anthony Roth Constanzo, as one of Partenope's pining suitors, fell down a spiral staircase then sang while dangling off its steps. He tap danced during his act 3 aria, with a cane thrown to him from the wings. His singing was youthful, clear & sweet, no matter what antics he was performing. Tenor Alek Shrader, portraying photographer Man Ray, was a captivating actor. He sang while hanging out of the transom over a bathroom door in act 2 & did hand shadow puppetry that caused applause mid-aria. His final aria incorporated a variety of increasingly contorted yoga poses. His singing was solid, with strong top notes that stood out from the rest of his range. Countertenor David Daniels, as the confused love interest of the opera's 2 female characters, had a brawny, muscular sound that conveyed maturity, & he was especially effective in his slower, more reflective arias.

Soprano Danielle de Niese was a sexy & free-spirited Partenope. Though her singing was often approximate, her performance was charismatic, joyful & expressive, & she moved around the stage with an alluring freedom. Mezzo Daniela Mack spends most of the opera disguised as a man & sounded firm, even & energetic. I enjoyed bass-baritone Philippe Sly's clean, focused singing & warm, open sound. He appears in the last act wearing inexplicable drag & bananas atop military headgear.

I liked the graceful & airy conducting from Julian Wachner. Tempos never felt strict, & the music sounded fresh. It was fun hearing the theorbo, & there was a nice flute obbligato. Baroque horns were used at the end of act 1. Their brash & blustery sound added period color, though their tuning was jarring. The show runs 3 1/2 hours, but I did not witness many people in the orchestra level leaving mid-performance. The audience cheered several arias, & the cast received a standing ovation. As this was the 1st night of the World Series, scores were displayed on the supertitles after act 1.

§ Partenope
George Frideric Handel

San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Julian Wachner
Director: Christopher Alden

Emilio: Alek Shrader
Partenope: Danielle De Niese
Arsace: David Daniels
Rosmira: Daniela Mack
Ormonte: Philippe Sly
Armindo: Anthony Roth Costanzo

Tue 10/21/14 7:30pm
War Memorial Opera House

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