Pallid Alcina (Erato, 1999)
What this recording sorely lacks is a pair of cojones. I listened to the first two acts, as Swissradio Opera programmed it rather late at the end of October. But I think that was enough to develop an opinion.
To start off, the pace is way too relaxed and polite. It’s right to be mindful of your singers but not to erase any possibility of dramatic involvement. Maestro’s only care seems to be keeping proceedings brisk. Lyrical passages aren’t very slowly taken yet feel completely bland. Then everybody sounds ethereal to the point where I can’t feel real emotion of any sort. Who are these characters and what do they want?
RF sounds like RF singing Alcina’s arias, in a general operatic fashion, with no attention to (or interest in?) Baroque styling. She doesn’t convey a particularly fetching character, nor does she sound broken upon discovering that Ruggiero doesn’t love her anymore. Ombre pallide indeed. SG, whom I’ve enjoyed a lot in other roles, does a surprisingly bloodless Ruggiero. I can’t even remember Di te mi rido. La boca vaga lacked wit, Mi lusinga… was relatively pretty but inexpressive, even came off as a bit of a chore. Hey, Ruggiero, this souffle falls flat if Mi lusinga… ain’t making a strong impression. Is this the same singer who put so much emotion into Sesto’s portrayal? Somebody must’ve told her to focus on pretty sounds and forget all about the whys and wherefores. I know this is about 7 years before the Tito DVD, but really? Whoever sang Morgana was careful to pack in a lot of ornaments, not that they made any real sense beside showing off her mad skillz. Tornami… was far from seductive, if correctly sung. It’s a sad Alcina day when you’re looking forward to Oronte and Melisso’s arias. Not that they aren’t good, but because they are scarce. The men were the best thing, which is kind of funny considering my opening statement.
To sum it up, the problem seems to be a general lack of trust in the opera’s dramatic integrity. Team: Here’s a piece that contains a lot of beautiful arias, let’s make them sound as lovely as we can and call it a day.
Now Fleming’s Rodelinda left me so underwhelmed I pretty much wrote her Handel off. But it’s Alcina1 I made it to Ombre pallide.
- I’m afraid it’s turning into another Tito (not that it’s a bad thing). ↩