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New York Opera Presents ‘Partenope’

September 14, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Goofy and giddy describe the plot and presentation of ``Partenope,″ the 1730 Handel comic opera performed for the first time by the New York City Opera.

The plot has Lisa Saffer as Queen Partenope surrounded by three suitors: One is deeply in love with her; another, Arsace, forgets his true love, Rosmira, every time he sees the queen; the third arrives as an enemy, wearing black leather and sunglasses. Rosmira, wanting to keep an eye on Arsace, dresses like a man and poses as another suitor.

It’s unbelievable that Handel could stretch this out for almost four hours but he did.

Unexpected humorous touches in Friday’s performance at the New York State Theater kept popping up from director Francisco Negrin, who was making his company debut. Costume designer Paul Steinberg put the singers in modern dress. The queen wore a pink suit with a short skirt and then donned a cocktail dress, boots and fencing mask to fight her enemy with a sword. She won the match and his heart.

Saffer, a petite soprano, sang with a clear, pure tone. Mezzo Jennifer Dudley was Rosmira.

Arsace was sung by countertenor David Walker and Armindo, who loves Pentenope most, was countertenor Bejun Mehta. Both were making New York City Opera debuts and both were excellent, with Mehta more soulful. The countertenor voice is in the range of the mezzo-soprano.

Only the queen’s servant had a low voice. The part was sung by bass baritone Eduardo Chama.

The New York City Opera’s production of ``Pertenope″ is based on a new edition of the score by Clifford Bartlett, commissioned by the Glimmerglass Opera in New York.

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