BBC Proms reviews

Prom 4: Concerto Copenhagen/Mortensen @ Royal Albert Hall, London

19 July 2009

Royal Albert Hall, London

Royal Albert Hall, London (Photo: David Iliff)

Though officially a concert performance, this presentation of Handel’s Partenope could almost have been dubbed semi-staged.

Originating from this season’s Royal Danish Theatre production, which accounted for its sharp dramatic edge, the performance had one advantage over a fully-staged one. The plot of Handel’s opera of 1730, which sees three suitors seek to win the heart of Queen Partenope, is so nonsensical that it doesn’t pay to dwell on it. Making this a concert performance, therefore, enabled the music to shine through, uninhibited by the ridiculous set-up.

Nevertheless, the characters were presented sufficiently boldly to ensure that this was more than just an evening packed with superlative singing. Andreas Scholl as Arsace, one of Partenope’s suitors whom Rosmira also loves, was particularly impressive as he achieved the ultimate fusion between singing and acting, his physical gestures and stances supporting his voice at every moment. Tuva Semmingsen convincingly captured Rosmira’s strength of personality that led her first to fight for Arsace after he had rejected her, but then not to fall straight back into his arms at the earliest opportunity.

Inger Dam-Jensen had presence as Queen Partenope, her resonant voice revealing all of the strength and vulnerability that went with her position, whilst Bo Kristian Jensen’s Emilio, another of Partenope’s suitors, captured both the pride of a prince used to conquering whatever he desired, and the willing subservience of one who now pines for the unobtainable. Christophe Dumaux was wonderfully expressive as the third suitor, Armindo, whilst Palle Knudsen’s voice demonstrated firmness and surety in Ormonte’s bass aria, ‘La gloria in nobil alma’.

The soloists were supported superbly by the Concerto Copenhagen, under the baton of Lars Ulrik Mortensen, which combined technical mastery of the music with a keen sense of rhythm and a sprightly pace.

The only disappointing moments came in Act Three when the plot is pushed forward in such a way that the characters’ utterances felt unfulfilling in the absence of the associated drama. Nevertheless, I remained sufficiently inspired by the performance to resolve that should I ever find myself in Copenhagen, I’ll be heading straight to the opera.

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Prom 4: Concerto Copenhagen/Mortensen @ Royal Albert Hall, London