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Partenope (HWV 27) is an opera by George Frideric Handel, first performed at the King's Theatre in London on 24 February 1730.


The opera, which is in three acts, is composed to an Italian libretto adapted by an unknown hand from a libretto originally written in 1699 by Silvio Stampiglia. Stampiglia's libretto had received many previous settings, including one by Caldara which Handel may have seen in Venice around 1710.[1]

It was Handel's first comic (or, rather, unserious) opera since the much earlier Agrippina, breaking away from the more traditional opera seria works for which the composer was known in London. He originally proposed the libretto to the opera company the Royal Academy of Music (1719)[2] in 1726. They however rejected the work because of its frivolous nature, its relatively few extended arias and its long passages of recitative. (The latter objections are not particularly true, however. The opera has relatively few ensemble pieces but is replete with gorgeous arias.) The opera manager Owen Swiney opined that the project was uncommercial; in a letter of 1726 he wrote:

[The libretto] is the very worst book (excepting one) that I ever read in my whole life. Signor Stampiglia [...] endeavours to be both humorous and witty in it: if he succeeded in his attempt on any stage in Italy, 't was merely from a depravity of taste in the audience; for I am very sure it will be received with contempt in England'[3]

The opera was presented during the 1730 season at the King's Theatre when Handel was working in partnership with the director John James Heidegger. The score was completed by Handel just two weeks before the premiere.

Performance history[edit]

In 1964 it was performed at Ledlanet, Scotland. The work had its U.S. premiere in 1988 at Opera Omaha. [4]In 1998 it was performed in Italian at Glimmerglass Opera, and the same production was performed later that year at New York City Opera. A production in English (entitled Parthenope) was staged in 2008 (premiere 9 October 2008, with the title role sung by Rosemary Joshua) by the English National Opera, in a co-production with Opera Australia. The libretto was translated by Amanda Holden. The production was set in an 1920s atmosphere and was inspired by the surrealist images of Man Ray. 2008, the opera was set up by The Royal Danish Opera. This production was recorded and is available on DVD. Also, a concert version of the production was performed at the 2009 Proms on 19 July 2009. A DVD of the Danish production was released by Decca in mid-September 2009

A modern production by Francisco Negrin was staged by New York City Opera in April 2010.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 24 February 1730
(Conductor:- )
Partenope, Queen of Naples soprano Anna Maria Strada del Pò
Arsace, Prince of Corinth alto castrato Antonio Bernacchi
Armindo, Prince of Rhodes contralto Francesca Bertolli
Emilio, Prince of Cumae tenor Annibale Pio Fabri
Rosmira/Eurimene, beloved of Arsace contralto Antonia Merighi
Ormonte bass Johann Gottfried Reimschneider


Prince Arsace of Corinth and Prince Armindo of Rhodes are seeking Queen Partenope, the founder of the city of Naples, in marriage. A third prince, Emilio of Cumae, is at war with Naples and with Partenope. Partenope is primarily attracted to Arsace. However, she does not know that Arsace has previously abandoned Rosmira, who is disguised as a man named Eurimene, and is trying to win him back. Rosmira confronts Arsace as Eurimene and harasses him for his faithlessness, and demands that he keep her true identity secret. Ultimately, Rosmira/Eurimene challenges her lover to a duel in a court of honour, but her identity is revealed when he demands the condition that they fight stripped to the waist.[5]


  • 2005: Rosemary Joshua, Hilary Summers, Lawrence Zazzo, Kurt Streit, Stephen Wallace, Andrew Foster-Williams; Early Opera Company conducted by Christian Curnyn (Chandos).


  1. ^ English National Opera programme, Parthenope, 8
  2. ^ Not to be confused with the much later educational institution, the Royal Academy of Music
  3. ^ cited in English National Opera programme, Parthenope, 12
  4. ^
  5. ^ Dean, Winton, "Music in London: Handel Operas" (January 1984). The Musical Times, 125 (1691): pp. 36-37.
  6. ^ Anderson, Nicholas, Review of recording of Partenope (July 1981). Early Music, 9 (3): pp. 385, 387.
  7. ^ Dean, Winton, "Record Reviews: Partenope" . (April 1980). The Musical Times, 121 (1646): pp. 251-252.
  8. ^ Pendle, Karin (1984). "Partenope. George Frideric Handel". The Opera Quarterly 2 (1): 158–159. doi:10.1093/oq/2.1.158. Retrieved 2007-10-12. 
  9. ^ Jellinek, George (1985). "Partenope. George Frideric Handel". The Opera Quarterly 3 (3): 189–190. doi:10.1093/oq/3.3.189. Retrieved 2007-10-12.