Vienna State Opera
Alcina (Anja Harteros) and Ruggiero (Vesselina Kasarova) share a more intimate moment.
Alcina (Anja Harteros) and Ruggiero (Vesselina Kasarova) share a more intimate moment. Vienna State Opera
Anja Harteros ..................... Alcina
Vesselina Kasarova .......... Ruggiero
Kristina Hammarström ... Bradamante
Veronica Cangemi ............ Morgana
Benjamin Bruns ................ Oronte
Adam Plachetka ............... Melisso
Shintaro Nakajima ............. Oberto
All three acts of Handel's opera are set on Alcina's enchanted island, where her favorite pastime is seducing vulnerable men — taking advantage of her great beauty, and adding a magic spell or two. But when it comes to love, Alcina has a short attention span. When her current lover starts to bore her, she simply turns him into something else and finds somebody new. By the time the opera starts, she's got a whole collection of former boyfriends who are now trees, boulders and wild animals.
In ACT ONE, we meet Alcina in the company of her latest love interest, Ruggiero, who is completely under her spell. Ruggiero's fiancée Bradamante is on her way, hoping to win him back, but it won't be easy. Simply to gain access to the island, Bradamante must disguise herself as her own brother, Ricciardo.
When Bradamante arrives, accompanied by Ruggiero's former tutor Melisso, she first encounters Morgana, Alcina's sister. When Morgana sees Bradamante — disguised as Ricciardo — she's immediately smitten. This annoys Oronte, Alcina's general, who wants Morgana himself. So he spreads a rumor that Alcina has fallen for this new "guy," Ricciardo, and Ruggiero falls for it.
Meanwhile, Alcina also has to deal with Oberto, a young boy searching for his father, whom Alcina seduced and then turned into a lion.
Amidst the complications, Bradamante goes to Ruggiero, drops her disguise, and reveals herself as his fiancée, but he sees her as Ricciardo — and as a rival for Alcina's love. Then Bradamante runs into Morgana again. Still thinking Bradamante is a guy — and a good-looking guy, at that — Morgana openly declares her love.
As ACT TWO begins, Ruggiero remains devoted to Alcina, despite Bradamante's efforts. So Melisso comes up with a mystical trick of his own, presenting Ruggiero with a magic ring to ward off Alcina's spells. Ruggiero then recognizes Bradamante, but refuses to believe his own eyes, thinking it must be another of Alcina's enchantments.
As for Alcina, she still thinks that Bradamante is a man called Ricciardo. And, thanks to the rumors Oronte has been spreading, Ruggiero is becoming more and more jealous. To ease Ruggiero's mind, Alcina decides to turn "Ricciardo" into a wild animal. Morgana objects and Ruggiero's continued loyalty persuades Alcina to cease and desist.
Eventually, Melisso's magic ring finally has its desired effect, and Ruggiero recognizes Bradamante. Together again, they decide to leave the island. To stop them, Alcina calls on demons and spirits, but her powers are beginning to fail her.
In ACT THREE, when Ruggiero and Alcina meet by accident, Ruggiero admits that he plans to abandon her — and that he's back in love with Bradamante. Alcina both pleads with him and threatens him, but Ruggiero is determined.
Melisso then reports that Alcina has surrounded the island with warriors and wild beasts, and leaving might be a problem. Ruggiero is defiant and wants to fight it out. But Bradamante insists that before anyone can live happily ever after, all of Alcina's spells must be broken.
The key to Alcina's magic is a mysterious urn — a receptacle for all her powers. So, with Bradamante and Oronte urging him on, and Alcina objecting ineffectively, Ruggiero breaks the urn — and the island's enchantments are also broken. All of Alcina's ex-lovers are released from their spells, and everyone is free as the opera ends.