The opera Partenope: 6 characters, 3 hours and 20 minutes, Baroque opera by Handel. Turns out it is a laugh riot. What 21st century music lover who is not totally up on Baroque could guess that? San Francisco Opera’s production of Partenope, performed Oct.15-Nov. 2, 2014, was originally created by the English National Opera and Opera Australia. It traveled well. An attempt at a summary of the plot: Partenope loves Arsace, the cad who abandoned Rosmira. Rosmira, convincingly dressed as a man, shows up at the house party. She/he claims to be in love with P., too. Shy Armindo is madly in love with P., but she can barely see him. Emilio arrives and offers to marry P. She refuses. E. threatens war. P. asks A(Arsace). to lead her forces. The other men and “man” have their feelings hurt. Ormonte observes. That’s just the first 20 minutes or so. The voices of all the performers were outstanding. Two of the men sang countertenor roles; David Daniels as Arsace and Anthony Roth Costanzo as Armindo. Those voices are higher than the voices of the two females; it’s just one layer of Handel’s satire of operatic conventions of his time. Daniels and Roth Costanzo were wonderful performers. Arsace’s emotions ranged from ardent suitor to dejected reject. Armindo, amazed by Partenope’s sudden declaration of love, breaks into a tap dance with top hat and cane on top of his nightie. Daniela Mack as Rosmira/Eurimene is conniving, passionate, heartbroken while in excellent voice. Danielle de Niese as Partenope, the Queen Bee to whom all the energy of the others is devoted, is more than an opera singer. She moves with the grace and assurance of a dancer thoroughly at home moving on stage. Her statuesque form plus her engaging presence showed that Handel was correct to make an opera all about her. It is a funny opera.Would we have missed the satire without the toilet paper? Director Christopher Alden packed the 200 minutes with sight gags including potty jokes. Emilio is interrupted by a sound; is it water? oh, no, it is a toilet flushing. Partenope walks out a door revealing a toilet. Emilio, sung by Alek Shrader with authority and a self-satirizing awareness, sings while hanging from the bathroom’s transom, makes hand shadows as though at camp, and executes a hilarious yoga routine. The set designed by Andrew Lieberman adds another star to the cast. The winding staircase in Act I is not only gorgeous but also gives Armindo an opportunity to show that he can fall down all the stairs–face down–and hang from the edge while still singing. A great addition to SFO’s repertory, it suggests one get out there to see more of Handel’s operas, maybe even this one in another production to see if Handel’s own humor is still there. Pictures: (L to Rt, top row)Danielle de Niese, David Daniels, Alek Shrader, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Daniela Mack(bottom row) Philippe Sly, staircase, Danielle de Niese.