A Conversation With Bass-Baritone Philippe Sly

October 17, 2014 1:25 PM

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San Francisco Opera's fourth presentation in the 2014/15 season is Handel's hit from 1730, Partenope. Directed by Christopher Alden, the production debuted in 2008 and is a joint effort with the English National Opera and Opera Australia. In 2009, it won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production. Back in Handel's day, the title character was linked to Parthenope, "Queen of Naples" - a girl named for one of the sirens and with suitors on every side. The opera involves a trio of princes from Corinth, Rhodes, and Cumae - and a caller who arrives unexpectedly, a certain "Eurimene" who is - not like the rest of them, anyway. Alden beams the provocative Partenope and her ensemble to Paris of the 1920's. No longer a queen, Partenope is transformed into the queen bee of an avant garde, intimate and artsy salon. Canadian bass-baritone Philippe Sly - praised for his stunning performance as Guglielmo in the Company's 2013 production of Cosi fan tutte - portrays Ormonte, no longer the Queen's guard, but a sharp-eyed partisan in Madame's daily eudaemonia.

"The way Christopher has set the production," says Phil, "it makes complete sense for me to be this other kind of insinuating character. What is available to me is quite ominent. Because the text can be quite vague, we can do what we want with it. It's a great use of Handel and shows how versatile h...

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