was the second new opera of the 1729/30 season. It was first performed on 24 February 1730 and, in contrast to the serious Lotario
, is a sophisticated comedy. Silvio Stampiglia’s libretto was a popular one, and had been set by several composers (the first being Caldara in 1707) before Handel composed his version. Partenope is the legendary founder and first queen of Naples. In the opera she has three admirers: her favourite, Arsace, who has abandoned his former lover, Rosmira; Armindo, who is at first too modest to reveal his love; and the blustering Emilio, prince of the neighbouring city of Cumae, who threatens to invade Naples if he cannot gain Partenope’s love. Rosmira, determined to have revenge on Arsace, has come to Naples disguised as a soldier. Arsace recognizes her, but she makes him swear never to reveal who she is, and takes every opportunity to embarrass him. Eventually she challenges him to a duel, allowing Arsace to turn the tables: he demands that they should fight bare-chested, and she is forced to explain her true identity. She and Arsace are reconciled, and Partenope accepts the meek and faithful Armindo. In Act 1 Partenope names Arsace as the leader of her forces against Emilio, but when Armindo, the disguised Rosmira and the captain of Partenope’s guard object, all claiming the honour for themselves, she decides that she herself will lead her army. In a dignified aria she assures Arsace that her love for him remains constant.
from notes by Anthony Hicks © 2000