Alcina by Handel - Opera North

Alcina by Handel - Opera North


Posted 2022-03-13 by David Keyworthfollow

Fri 11 Mar 2022 - Thu 24 Mar 2022

An island where an enchantress turns her lovers into stones, trees and wild beasts is the premise of Handel's opera, Alcina. It premiered on 16 April 1735 as part of the composer's first season at Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. It was not revived until 1928.

So, is Opera North staging a work which was unfairly neglected?

Bradamante and Melissa sail into this dangerous territory to reclaim Bradamante's fiancée - Ruggiero - from Alcina's clutches. He fails to recognise his wife-to-be - it must be the armour she wears.

There are echoes of Bizet's Carmen in the conflict between honouring promises made at home and getting blown along by a romantic adventure.

The music has a lulling, seductive quality. The problem is that its baroque splendour cannot make-up for the lack of dramatic tension. The characters tell us about their emotions in over-explanatory lines (sung in Italian with English subtitles).

We are told that Ruggiero and Alcina have a magnetic attraction but it is not demonstrated enough or shown in development. This means that when Ruggiero sings his anguished arias - a role originally sung by the castrato Giovanni Carestini - it is hard to care too much.

The second half of the night is more engaging, as Handel's music takes on a darker resonance. Sky Ingram, as Alcina (standing in for the indisposed Máire Flavin) balances musical control with emotional outpouring in Alcina's heartbroken arias, such as Ah! mio cor!

There is also more poetry in the libretto too, with references to green meadows, beautiful forests, lovely flowers and flowing streams.

Set and Costume Designer, Hannah Clark has created vintage chic outfits for the leading lady which combine elegance with power. The set design pays a nod to the kind of luxury island favoured by Princess Margaret and Richard Branson.

The props include a matching set of chairs, which resemble ones from the break-out room of a conference centre. When Alcina pushes them over she looks more like she's had a bad day at the office, rather than venting rage at the waning of a romance and her magical powers.

A screen of moving images, by video designer Ian William Galloway, is used to transport us from waves to sand to darkening night-time forest and back again.

Sadly though, despite the technology and combined talents of Opera North, Alcina is a work by a great composer, but not a great opera overall.

Hopefully, Opera North's programme will find space for works by new composers - such as Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel by Iain Bell and librettist Emma Jenkins.

Before Alcina began, the orchestra played the Ukrainian national anthem and the audience came to its feet in a spontaneous display of support. Hopefully, Handel, who raised money for London's Foundling Hospital, from benefit performances of his Messiah oratorio, would have appreciated the musical gesture.

Alcina continues its tour:

Thursday 17 March
Theatre Royal, Nottingham

Thursday 24 March
#event_booking ">Theatre Royal, Newcastle

!date 11/03/2022 -- 24/03/2022
71429 - 2023-01-26 01:53:37


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