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Stuart King

PARTENOPE: English National Opera at The Coliseum Theatre

Partenope - ENO When choosing to stage a near 300 year old piece by the master of recitative and opera seria George Frideric Handel, "Partenope" is often sidelined in favour of one of his better received works; indeed it remained unperformed for some 200 years of its existence, due largely to a belief that the original story and libretto were convoluted, frivolous and poorly structured.

In tackling this apparent flawed piece then, it is perhaps unsurprising that any combination of Director and Set/Costume Designer would endeavour to capitalise on efforts to update the action to a period more accessible and of interest to a modern opera-going audience. For English National Opera's current production, Christopher Alden, Andrew Lieberman and Jon Morrell have transported the audience to an audacious conglomoration of periods reflective of Courboisier, the Bauhaus Movement, Flappers of the Charleston Era, Man Ray, Tamara de Lempicka, Marlene Dietrich and others. Errors exist, but they are minor, and why nit-pick when on the whole the effect is sumptuous yet stark and possessing of a joyous, artisanal quality. The comedic elements are well realised causing one to question whether the "flawed" monicker is indeed appropriate at all.

The sets, with their combinations of curves (including a well utilised white staircase) juxtaposed with straight galleried walkways, have provided a number of cross-stage lighting design headaches, but inventiveness has won the day overall.

For a plot which requires the acting and singing talents of counter tenors and females singing male roles, cross-dressing elements are much in evidence and lend fun, flair and flounce to this stylishly realised, playful and hugely entertaining production. Sarah Tynan in the title role, tackles Partenope's soprano trills with flirtatious gusto and Rupert Charlesworth (standing-in for Robert Murray) as Emilio, also shone brightly... as did Amanda Holden's English translation of the libretto. Here, she demonstrated her usual assured hand on the tiller, with many couplets drawing gasps of delight and amusement from the appreciative audience.

"Partenope" continues until 24th March at ENO's London Coliseum.

Partenope tickets