Tag: Scholl

Handel – Partenope / Royal Danish Opera 2008 (3)

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There is only one little puzzle that I have yet to work out about this production. The orb. It first appears as a bowling-ball sized golden ball that Partenope’s servant Ormonte hands to Rosmira when she is having misgivings about what she is doing at the end of Act I. (I should say, when at the end of Act I she is having misgivings about what she is doing. The scene does not rise to that level of meta-criticism.) He hands it to her as if she’s supposed to know what to do with it, or as if she ought to expect it. Rosmira takes it, and then gives it back.

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Handel – Partenope / Royal Danish Opera 2008 (2)

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Two things stood out to me about this performance. First of all, the production strikes what I would call an excellent balance between visuals and music – it’s interesting, but it’s never distracting (well, except for when two of the walls start closing in on Partenope in Act I as her servant Ormonte suggests that Emilio’s visit may not be about war alone; the sudden inward movement of the walls and Partenope’s startled look reminded me of nothing so much as the first Star Wars movie when they get stuck in the Death Star’s trash compactor. But this is one of those things that is more of an Earworm problem than a Danish National Opera problem.)

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Handel – Partenope / Royal Danish Opera 2008 (1)

partenopeHandel’s Partenope is not, as one might mistakenly guess from the DVD cover, about the various unpleasant things that can happen when you wear armor without a lining. Rather, it’s about Queen Partenope of Partenope, which later became known as Naples. (It sounds strange, but you could do that kind of thing back then. “This is my city! I am named Gretchen. The city shall be called . . . Gretchen. Until such time as we see fit to rename it something else, like Heidelberg or whatever.”)

Partenope (Inger Dam-Jensen) is a very attractive prospect, what with having her own city and all, and she has several suitors: Arsace (Andreas Scholl), Armindo (Christophe Dumaux) and Emilio (Bo Kristian Jensen). She starts out by loving Arsace, but there is a bit of a problem with this, because Arsace is in a Ruggiero-type situation, but without the excuse of having been literally enchanted. His girlfriend Rosmira (Tuva Semmingsen) soon arrives in hot pursuit, disguised as a young man, Eurimine, complete with the inevitable mustache. (Though I have to say, the mustache technicians at the Danish Opera know their trade. They managed to find one that really suits Semmingsen.)

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Handel – Rodelinda / Metropolitan Opera 2011 (1)

Rodelinda battles it out in my head with Giulio Cesare and Alcina as my favorite Handel opera. I’ve seen two other versions of it on DVD, and heard two more on CD, and watching this performance from the Met made me realize that one of the other versions I’ve seen is actually even more interesting, in retrospect, than I thought it was at the time. But that’s not important right now.

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Handel – Rodelinda / Glyndebourne 1998 (2)

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The silent film conceit does more than just allow for a certain amount of hand-waving. It’s sort of interesting, isn’t it, to stage an opera – an art form where the performers are right there with the audience – with reference to film, where there isn’t any contact between the two? Especially given that here the performers are often addressing the audience directly. Unulfo’s “sono i colpi della sorte” in Act I is sung more about than to Bertarido. And during Act II, Eduige’s “de’ miei scherni per far le vendette” is done almost as an aside. Rodelinda is in the room, but she’s not paying much attention, except when Eduige gets a little too caught up in it, receives a sort of “what?” look from Rodelinda, and looks embarrassed for a moment. There is an extraverted quality to all this – lots of asides, little glances or facial expressions aimed at the audience, this type of thing. You can’t get deeply drawn into what is going on because your presence is so frequently acknowledged – you’re reminded that this is being performed for you. My point isn’t that this is a bad way to stage a Handel opera, just that it’s not necessarily one calculated to hit you where it hurts.

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Handel – Rodelinda / Glyndebourne 1998 (1)

This production of Handel’s Rodelinda remains in Italy – we see Garibaldo reading Corriere della sera in Act II – but the story has been moved to the 1920s. Rodelinda is not the queen of the Lombards here in any obvious sense. I’m not actually sure what she’s queen of. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

But there are definitely people in positions of authority here. Except for Grimoaldo, who wears some very snazzy suits, the men wear military uniforms. But lest you think hm, Italy in the 1920s and military uniforms – I wonder where they’re going with that? rest assured that this opera is not about fascism. Or, at least it wasn’t about fascism in any way that I was able to determine. If fascism is commented upon in the woods and no one is there to hear it, etc. etc.

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