‘Partenope” has never been seen on any list of Handel’s greatest hits. Since its debut in 1730, in fact, it’s hardly been seen at all. Its initial modest success at London’s King’s Theatre was followed by a disastrous Covent Garden revival in 1737. It didn’t resurface till the 20th century, and then sporadically; its first-ever performance in Italy took place in 2009.
You can blame its unpopularity on the soap-operaish plot, which climaxes with a stripped-to-the-waist duel between two of the male protagonists — one of whom is actually a woman. But there’s nothing wrong with Handel’s music, and it was exciting to hear most of the opera (uncut, it would run over three hours) from Boston Baroque and its artistic director, Martin Pearlman, Saturday at Jordan Hall.