University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Handel: Alcina

12/03/2023 1:30 pm
12/03/2023 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Over the past three decades or so all of Handel's Italian opere serie have been recorded musically complete and in historically informed interpretations. One such was Ariodante (1735) on Virgin Classics CDs, with Alan Curtis leading his period instrument ensemble, Il Complesso Barocco, which I broadcast on Sunday, October 9, 2011. Curtis lead the same group of players in Alcina (1735), another in a series of operas Handel wrote for John Rich's new theater at Covent Garden. Ariodante I had never previously presented, but Alcina I have broadcast before, first way back on Sunday, February 5, 1989 on old London LPs. It had been revived on the Covent Garden stage in 1962 with the diva Joan Sutherland in the title role.

In the Italian poet Ariosto's epic poem, Orlando Furioso, Alcina is a sorceress and queen of an enchanted island. Like Circe in ancient Greek myth she beguiled men with her amorous charms, in Circe's case only to turn them into beasts. Alcina confronts the noble Christian knight Ruggiero, who is shipwrecked on her shores. Ruggiero manages to overcome his infatuation with Alcina. He smashes the urn wherein her powers reside.

As in his recording of Ariodante, Curtis's star singer is mezzo Joyce Didonato. All of Curtis's Handel recordings have been praised. Writing in Fanfare magazine (Jan/Feb, 2010 issue), Ron Salemi says "...Curtis has assembled an outstanding group of singers. There is no weak element in the cast, and all make a strong and positive impression, equal or superior to others who have recorded this opera... Joyce Didonato sings Alcina's music with sensitivity to the role and great technique, along with the beauty of voice."

Alcina was issued in 2009 on three Deutsche Grammophon/Archiv compact discs. I presented this recording on Sunday, November 13, 2011, but you listeners only got to hear the first two of the three discs. My broadcast was cut short suddenly and ended unexpectedly early to make way for a live sports broadcast. The rebroadcast of Alcina this Sunday will permit you to hear the opera in its entirety.