As a sort of non-Valentines date night, we decided last minute to go and see Alcina – my second ever opera – obviously provided by the incomparable Opera North.
We arrived at the very last minute and were given the gift of better seats – so you can imagine the glee as we found our spot – not in the rafters!
Don’t fall under her spell
Welcome to Alcina’s island paradise.
All men who set foot there fall under her spell, but soon discover it’s all an illusion: Alcina is an enchantress whose island is nothing but a barren wasteland, its animals, rocks and trees are in fact her spellbound discarded lovers.
When handsome knight Ruggiero appears, Alcina experiences true love for the first time. But when Ruggiero’s fiancée arrives on a mission to rescue him, Alcina’s magic is tested to breaking point…
Handel’s bewitching tale of deception, seduction, love and loss is bursting with heart-melting music, such as Ruggiero’s regretful farewell to the beauty of Alcina’s island.
But to whom is he saying goodbye, and who will pay the ultimate sacrifice?OPERA NORTH
Well…this is just the most MENTAL viewing experience!
Given that it’s all sung in Italian, thank the heavens for subtitles and programmes – otherwise we would have been completely lost.
The singing and acting is amazing – the minimal set design is intriguing and – as always – the high standards and productive values of Opera North came shining through.
Handel is probably a little more ‘advanced’ that my opera learning self deserves to be honest. The only other opera that I’ve ever seen (also Opera North – I’m a fan, what can I say) was La Boheme was about 150 years after Handel’s and honestly, I felt the age difference!
The music was exquisite – so many songs and passages felt incredibly contemporary. The gender swap (no spoilers but one of the primary characters is in disguise) is brilliantly done and the energy on stage was incredible.
However…and this is not a criticism, it’s a very personal reflection – I was WAY TOO NOVICE to handle a countertenor. All the opera that I have seen in adverts and Pavarotti videos has had a very high pitched female vocalist, paired with a very low pitched male vocalist.
In this, the character of Ruggiero was originated (back in the 1730’s when they had such things) by a castrato. Which basically means that one of the two chaps on stage sang as high or higher than the female cast.
Which I was NOT expecting.
I’ve just about enough musical knowledge to truly be blown away by his performance. He was amazing, on note, present and correct. But it was not what I was expecting. And it sounded so alien to my ears.
It’s embarrassing, but if I’m totally honest with you, the reason I’ve never enjoyed the Bee Gee’s is because they sing too high. So…this was… just weird for me.
Nevertheless, despite my ignorance, we had an incredible evening. I would heartily recommend catching this.
Throughout, you could feel that the whole theatre was on board – sympathising, imagining and drawn in by the phenomenal performances of the cast. The last verses drew audible gasps and laughs that were a basic embrace of all that had preceded it!
My new operatic goal is to see a Mozart and fill in the gaps between the 1730’s to today. Opera – even when misunderstood by a philistine with a lack of musical appreciation – is a transformative experience. I’m genuinely embarrassed that I am such a rube, but I’m willing to learn, counts for something right?
And there was ice cream. And sorbet.
- The Lowry, Salford Quays
- Theatre Royal, Nottingham
- Theatre Royal, Newcastle
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Approximately 2 hours 50 minutes
Sung in Italian with English titles
*Prices vary by venue. Booking fees may apply.