Hampstead Garden Opera perform Partenope at Jackson’s Lane
- Credit: Archant
A seriously surreal take on Handel’s Opera Seria - don’t expect to understand it, just sit back and wallow in the fun, lovely music, and amazing performances.
Handel's original setting of Partenope (rhymes with Penelope) placed the Queen at her Neapolitan court surrounded by various suitors and supporters, vying for her attention and preferment.
A stranger arrives (Rosmira/Eurimene sung with power and subtlety by Anne-Sofie Soby Jensen) and things get romantically complicated.
Later, neighbouring potentate Prince Emilio shows up demanding the hand of Partenope: he is rebuffed; he threatens war; Partenope is up for it.
The scene is set for a confusion of identities and some of the loveliest music Handel ever put to paper.
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Actually, in this wonderfully kitsch HGO production (hats off to director Ashley Pearson) the scene has been transposed to the Victorian seaside, and Partenope is a resort manager facing takeover bids from neighbouring attractions - personally and businesswise!
We're on a beach crowded with gaily striped tents and everyone is sporting one-piece bathing cozzies (not the most attractive garment for audience members in eye-level seats).
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Did any of the plot make sense? No. Is it supposed to? Not really.
Instead, this is a seriously surreal interpretation of one of Handel's opera seria. How else can you explain a bloke wearing a bucket on his head, armed with a yellow lacy parasol, locked in mortal combat with another chap wearing a knitted crocodile head piece?
Jennifer Begley's performance as Queen P is brilliant; just enough tongue in cheek and possessing a wonderful mezzo.
Her suitors all delivered, and Francis Gush admirably demonstrated the frailty, cowardice and inconsistencies of the lovestruck Arsace.
Music Director Bertie Baigent and his dozen players in the gallery were perfect: strings, woodwind, trumpet and two wonderful harpsichords set the mood, drove the action and delivered flawlessly.
Baroque opera buffs will love this production and Jackson's Lane gurgled with much knowing laughter.
For the untutored, the advice is to read the excellent programme notes, don't expect to get it all at once, just sit back and wallow in the energy, lovely music, and amazing performances.