The sorceress Alcina inhabits a world made up of the souls of her past lovers. Her kingdom is in reality a desert – a lifeless place of no moral compass into which she lures her unsuspecting victims. As the opera opens, the warrior knight Ruggiero has fallen under her spell.
Bradamante (Ruggiero’s fiancé) arrives on Alcina’s island with Ruggiero’s former tutor, Melisso. Bradamate has disguised herself as her brother Ricciardo in order to infiltrate Alcina’s kingdom. She and Melisso possess a magic ring, which enables the wearer to see through the mirage of Alcina’s kingdom. With … Read more
“A short phrase concisely spoken and full of meaning pierces the brain like a surgeon’s lancet.” – Jean Cocteau
Ever since Opera Atelier’s inception, friends and colleagues have asked when we planned to produce a major Handel opera. As the years have passed, people have become somewhat incredulous that we have failed to mount an opera by a composer whose name is so closely associated with the baroque world. There were a number of reasons for our hesitation to commit to Handel, but the quality of his music was certainly not among them. Handel’s incomparable sense of melody and … Read more
Alcina, first performed in London (1735), contains some of Handel’s most ravishing music, expressly composed for the extensive ballet sections. His choreographic muse for this opera was the remarkable dancer/choreographer, Marie Sallé. Dancing masters who were commissioned to choreograph operas usually were also engaged to dance in these pieces – this is not in itself unusual. Marie Sallé was unique in her day as a woman undertaking these roles and she was also extremely innovative in her creative output, stressing expression over virtuosity! She was a star in both London and Paris, and appeared several times in Versailles. She … Read more
The sorceress Alcina has been floating around the Opera Atelier office for a long time now.
Marshall and I have talked for years about producing Handel’s “magic opera” and each time we approached it we stepped back, unsure of how to tackle the scenic transformations so necessary to the telling of this story based on Ariosto’s great Crusades-inspired poem “Orlando Furioso”. It was only after a chance viewing of a brilliant ballet film by Toronto’s Krystal Levy Pictures that we began to think about the possibilities of video projection and our doubts about producing this opera vanished.
On April 12, 1735, Handel held the first full rehearsal for his new opera Alcina at his own house in London. As was common at the time, he invited friends and supporters to attend, including Mrs. Mary Pendarves (later Delany), a perceptive and educated commentator on many aspects of 18th-century English society, who wrote of the new work:
“I think it the best he ever made, but I have thought so of so many, that I will not positively say ’tis the finest, but ’tis so fine I have not words to describe it. Whilst Mr. Handel was … Read more