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Hampstead Garden Opera gets seriously saucy with Handel’s Partenope

16 May, 2019 — By Michael White

Kali Hardwick, left, and Jenny Begley share the Partenope role

MUCH of Handel’s output for the theatre is what’s known as “opera seria”: which is to say it’s serious, even if the story is far-fetched.

Partenope, though, is a slightly different case. And Hampstead Garden Opera advertise their new production as an “opera not so seria”. Which is fair enough, because the whole piece is a comedy about competing lovers doing silly things to win the woman they all want – and with so much cross-dressing (or, as we’d say now, gender-fluidity) it can be hard to keep track of who’s male, who’s female.

Design drawings for the new production

If that sounds like pantomime, it very nearly is – albeit with superior music. And HGO’s staging relocates the action to a Victorian seaside town where holiday-makers go to escape their real lives and stretch the boundaries of proper behaviour. The stuff, you might say, of saucy postcards.

Essentially a com­pany designed to give experience to young singers straight from college, HGO has advanced in leaps and bounds since it made a relocation of its own from the basic space of the Gate­house pub-theatre, upgrading to the better-equipped Jackson’s Lane.

It’s grown. It has more confidence. And this Partenope looks like a fresh and bright production.

• Running May 17 to 26, 7.30pm (with two matinees at 4pm), £22+. Jackson’s Lane Theatre, Archway Road, Highgate N6 5AA, 0800 411 8881, hgo.org.uk/tickets

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