Friday Fun: Spera e godi, il mio tesoro (Handel)

I went to see Opera Australia’s production of Partenope on Wednesday.  It’s a wonderful, insane production of a wonderful, bonkers opera.  The plot concerns Partenope, the soprano and the Queen of Naples, who is beloved by everyone, including Arsace (a mezzo), who she favours, and Armindo (a male alto), who is in love with her but too shy to say so.  Unfortunately, Arsace has abandoned Rosmira (another mezzo), who decides to take her revenge by dressing as a man (as you do), pretending to be in love with Partenope, and making it her business to torment Arsace, who recognises her, but for some reason says nothing about this.  There is also a random tenor prince who is trying to invade Naples because he is in love with Partenope, but that’s sort of a side issue in all the general crazy.  This particular production – which I will review when I am not busy making myself late to work – was rendered extra-specially mad by adding a lot of surrealism, making the invading tenor prince into an analogue of photographer Man Ray, and making everything even more sexualised than it was already.  Which is saying something.

Anyway, I was rather taken by the aria which Partenope sings right after Rosmira (still pretending to be a man) reveals Arsace’s perfidy – Partenope immediately turns to Armindo (who she has previously been treating in a mildly mocking fashion) and informs him that they will be living happily ever after now, but has to keep looking back over her shoulder to sing invective at Arsace.  As you do.

Unfortunately, I’ve only been able to find one recording of this, and it has a lot of background laughter, though it is beautifully sung.

Emma Matthews, playing Partenope rather cruelly kept on singing her high soprano invective directly into the ear of a clearly hungover Arsace, which added an extra level of amusing soprano evil.

In lieu of further description, and to give you a taste of the delicious insanity of the whole thing, here’s Emma Matthews singing “You’ll be taking control of my army” over a montage of footage from the Opera Australia production.  Sadly, it does not have footage of the tenor doing yoga while singing his aria, but you can’t have everything…

Oh, and here’s a rather interesting interview with Emma Matthews about the role.  I do like the bit where she says Catherine Carmichael has been her boyfriend for ten years now.  She certainly has been every time I’ve seen her in anything…

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