My very first Baroque opera, and the one that sealed the deal with the nasty stuff for life.
To be sure: Handel’s opera is weird. Like: Shakespeare in Twelfth Night weird awesome–Armindo (a female alto, usually, dressed as a man) and Arsace (a castrato, a neutered male, singing in the range of a woman) seeking the love of queen Partenope (a female soprano). Only that Arsace is also being pursued by his old love, Rosmira (a female contralto) disguised as a male soldier in Partenope’s army (and named Eurimene).
Yes, the gender-fuck issue is and was one of the delights in the eighteenth century when Handel composed it. And it still is today. Consider, for instance, the Royal Danish Opera’s 2008 performance, all of which is conveniently available on YouTube.
Like: Act I (and yes, that’s Andreas Scholl as Arsace)
And remember, of course, the opera buffa aspect of all this. Like, the notoriously difficult-to-stage battle scene:
But the reason Partenope‘s important, the reason it’s worth coming back to, of course, is its intensely beautiful music.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Ch’io parta: