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Georg Friedrich Händel 1685—1759

Opera in 3 acts
Libretto after Silvio Stampiglia
World premiere February 24 1730, King’s Theatre, London

Introductory talks (in German) begin 30 mins before curtain up in the Bockenheimer Depot and appear here shortly after opening night

Sung in Italian with German surtitles

Lust or frustration? Fighting or reconciliation? A three-way battle for the hand of a Queen.

A shrewd politician, a jilted bride disguised as a man, and three upper crust, eager to marry gentlemen make for all kinds of confusion in Handel’s tragicomedy. The libretto drew on texts by the Roman poet Silvio Stampiglia, who prefered writing silly stories and biting comedy to moralising plots and pathos. His work’s got nothing to do with Partenope, the last Siren Odysseus encountered on his Odyssey. In Handel’s opera she’s foundress and Queen of Naples, who’s being courted by three men. The first, shy Armindo, waits a long time before declaring his love for the Queen. The second, Emilio, arrives with his army, ordering the Queen to choose between marriage or war. Partenope beats him in battle, has him arrested, offering him friendship instead.

The Queen’s craftiness in sending these two suitors packing generates irresistibly funny situations, but she can't control Arsace, the one she likes best: The Queen’s unaware he’s engaged to marry Rosmira, who arrives at court disguised as Prince Eurimene to win her beloved back. She humiliates two-timing Arsace, keeping her true identity secret until the last minute.

Unexpectedly, somewhat reserved Armindo emerges as the winner in this turbulent war of love, who adds a good dollop of melancholy to Handel’s thrilling sequence of arias, ambiguous wit and breathtaking tempo.