From ex-lovers transformed into animals to magical rings, from collapsing mountains to palaces that appear out of thin air – there is no doubt that Alcina has mastered the standard repertoire of a sorceress. In her kingdom she entrances and abandons men as the mood takes her, scoffing traditional morals and institutions such as marriage. Her adversary, Bradamante, has set off in disguise to free her lover Ruggiero, who has fallen under Alcina’s spell. Together, Bradamante and Ruggiero return to a more conventional bourgeois existence whilst Alcina’s magical realm crumbles into dust.
This late work, premiered in Covent Garden in 1735, contains some of Georg Friedrich Händel’s most beautiful arias. They clearly present the conflicting emotions of the characters, their confusion as to whether they should trust their perceptions and their hearts. In his music Händel, too, goes above and beyond the simplistic black-and-white narration of the libretto: Alcina, the self-centred sorceress, becomes a woman of passion whose love is eventually frustrated both by her own demands and social pressures. In the end the demise of her magical realm, a world of desire and fantasy, is not only regarded as a liberation, but also a sad loss.
Dramma per musica in three acts by Georg Friedrich Händel. Performed in Italian with German surtitles.
Running time 3 hours
Premiere 29 Oct 2011