“Alcina”, love, magic and vocalizations in Lausanne Opera – rts.ch

Until March 13, the Opéra de Lausanne will show a new set-up of Handel’s famous “Alcina”. Visually messy, but of great vocals and instrumental beauty, the production enchants the audience.

More than three hours of music, soloists able to withstand extreme vocal difficulties and an effective staging that manages to keep the audience awake: a production of the opera “Alcina” is never an easy task for an opera house.

This opera by Handel, which premiered in London in 1735, was so successful that it remained to be seen in Covent Garden for eighteen days (a rarity at the time). As is often the case in opera seria (one of the main genres of opera in the 18th century), libretto is not characterized by its fluidity, but it does not matter as long as there is magic, seduction, betrayal and above all love that triumphs. everything else.

>> Also read the great Handel format and the London Opera: Trade and Opera in London

The plot of the opera evokes the troubles of a couple, Ruggiero and Bradamante, who face the magician Alcina, who transforms the knights who fail on her island into trees, animals and rocks. Alcina, however, has an Achilles heel: her love for Ruggiero, which she bewitched to make him forget his wife. Three hours later, after a series of intrigues and pyrotechnic broadcasts, everything ends well: Bradamante, who has landed on the island disguised as a man, frees her husband, all the knights return to their human form, and the sorceress is defeated.

Handel’s opera “Alcina” in the Opéra de Lausanne. [Jean-Guy Python – DR]

“Alcina” at Fashion Week

The motif Stefano Poda, who also signs the scenery, costumes, lights and choreography, turns the plot into a place where Alcina reigns as a multi-billionaire despot stunned by power, sex and haute couture. During the opera’s three acts, we witness a parade worthy of a fashion week: farthingale dresses (these huge dresses that the babies in Velasquez ‘paintings are adorned with), steamed negligees, leather, black suits, other reds and gold , Louboutin pumps …

These sumptuous costumes stand out against a very dark scenography, revealing black cypress trees, anthracite-skinned servants, statues of panthers, birds as pale as kitsch and vaguely human dark shapes symbolizing the knights transformed into animals and rocks by Alcina. At the heart of this oppressive scenography stands a monumental sphere that performs two functions: on the tail side, the magical urn that houses Alcina’s powers, and on the front, the sphere reveals the cave of the depraved magician.

>> To see the trailer for the show:


A lost dramaturgy

Stefano Poda made the choice of profit, of the abundance of scenic elements; a bias that makes sense when one knows that in the 18th century opera was the scene of all the excesses with scenery and effects that were to impress the public. But if the scenography finds some kind of context, it is difficult to follow the dramaturgy as vanished as “first degree”. In the director’s view, Alcina retains power, youth, and beauty through her magic, but for how long?

To portray Alcina’s fears as he senses her end approaching, Stefano Poda summons a double, an older extra, who performs regularly throughout the opera. Unfortunately, instead of digging into this intention, which is nonetheless rich in meaning, the narrative rushes into the more conventional path of the relationship between sex and power. The sexual ballads in which Alcina indulges with her slaves and her enchanted lover, Ruggiero, like the other scenes of muscular seduction bring nothing to the matter. This stereotypical reading pollutes the performance of the performers. Why so much exaggeration in the movements and facial expressions that seem to be intended to “produce” the famous “aria da capo”, the long repetitive melodies adorned with formidable vocalizations?

Musical enchantment

On the musical side, the Lausanne production shines with a thousand lights. In the role of Alcina, soprano Lenneke Ruiten reveals a voice, abundant and agile, caressing without any strife, stratospheric tones of Handel’s formidable score. Opposite her, the countertenor Franco Fagioli portrays a formidable Ruggiero, but unfortunately too mannered in his vocal expression (perhaps by mirror effect of his exaggerated acting). The lead vocal trio is rounded off by naturally breathtaking mezzo-soprano Marina Viotti as Bradamante; a voice, never limited, which magnetizes the public.

Less flamboyant, the rest of the cast nonetheless remains compelling with Vaudois soprano Marie Lys in the role of a triggered Morgana and bass baritone Guilhem Worms, whose very beautiful voice lacks some precision, in Melisso. This balanced cast is accompanied by the Orchester de chambre de Lausanne conducted by Diego Fasolis, who miraculously produces the beauty of Handel’s score, between the furious passages and the moments of great sweetness where the woodwinds and strings in dialogue with the soloists.

Anya Leveille / olhor

“Alcina” by Georg Friedrich Handel. Lausanne Opera. until 13 March 2022. Broadcast on Espace 2 in the program “A l’opéra” on 9 April from 20.00 and on RTS Un on 21 April at 22.45.

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