Alcina of dashed hopes (Geneve, 25 February 2016)

I generally try to approach a performance as objectively as possible. Let’s just say that I’m in a funny (as in not funny) mood today (this month) due to things that have nothing to do with Handel. In any case, I had the choice of writing when in a mardy mood or not writing at all. If you want to see this production click here.

Alcina: Nicole Cabell
Ruggiero: Monica Bacelli
Morgana: Siobhan Stagg
Bradamante: Kristina Hammarstrom
Oronte: Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani
Melisso: Michael Adams
Conductor: Leonard Garcia Alarcon | Grand Theatre de Geneve

Overture: it’s correct but I sense a lack of enthusiasm. That could be me. I don’t like the very low resolution offered by ARTE. Then again, the production is very dark and low light conditions are always detrimental to high res. The curtain opens soon into the overture to reveal hunting house or cabin in the woods overgrown with weeds – but also boasting a table set for dinner (Great Expectations?). Melisso and Bradamante (in vague military gear) show up with torches and find a stuffed bear but also some corsets behind a curtain. I guess it could be a love nest for outdoorsy types but it’s also a bit tired Alcina staging. Verily, this production has drawn on all the other productions I have seen.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s me – again – but I feel like I want no stagings. Just give me good singing and precise personnenregie and leave me with my own imagination.

They think they have been sneaky but Morgana (in pink kimono) has already set her eye on Bradamante. Stagg isn’t bad at the sex kitten thing in that it reminds of a loud drunken babe on a Saturday night. Her method of seduction is full on. One of her techniques is to grab at Bradamante, which, of course, startles the object of her attention, who doesn’t want her cover blown from the getgo. It made me wonder if Morgana did not perhaps zero in to her being a woman and tried to convey she rather liked it. Then again, I’m way less objective today. But what can you want from this? It’s seduction island. Wouldn’t it be funny if Bradamante went out to free her lover from the snares of another only to herself end up ensnared?

People say “why don’t you write your own opera if you don’t like the libretto?” – because it’s more efficient to use stage direction instead of embarking on a whole new opera with the single aim of having the old opera play out slightly different.

Anyway, Bradamante is still upright and sneakily gets rid of a glass of blue flambante. I wouldn’t have drunk it either since it looked vicious rather than enticing. There’s a reason why Morgana isn’t top dog.

Enter the power couple, though it’s strictly up to Alcina to hold the power bit. Ruggiero is some lapdog among a bunch of other fops who in this production have not been turned into topiary. Too bad. Alcina’s golden ’20s hairstyle is impressive. Cabell does regal without problems but given the muppets she has to work with we can’t talk about sizzle. It’s obvious during Di, cor mio that Cabell and Bacelli have a good rapport but – given this staging – who cares? There are 2 1/2 hours to go.


Oronte and some Baroque fruit

But do you know who else is in this production? Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani. Let’s ffwd to Semplicetto, a donna credi because this Ruggiero is really that semplice. Very refreshing flute details in this version and expressive singing from Giustiniani, who seems to have a ball with both sections. Can we have Alcina try to put the moves on this one instead? He tosses a manly beer at Ruggiero which apparently makes this muppet gutsy enough to confront Alcina about her supposed unfaithfulness.


Ruggiero packs his toys and goes home

So how about this dude that’s currently with Alcina? The way things are going I can’t imagine Sta nell’Ircana, so I’m just going to ffwd to that bit. Military attire, brandishes a weapon, Alcina walks out half way through. Says it all. The random trills must mean this dude is cookoo. Is this a valid take? Who cares.

Listen, if you want people to find out about whatever bits might be interesting in the middle (like how Morgana and Oronte – the only characters I vaguely cared about here – deal with their issues) you have to give them something along the way.

Just because my curiosity has ebbs and flows, I skipped ahead and I have to say Alcina’s Io son perduta was gorgeously done, credibly lonely and desperate, which in turn kept me around for Me restano le lagrime, which was pretty good (not the most memorable middle for Cabell).

It’s probably better than I give it credit for though between this and last year’s Audi production it would be hard to go for a favourite. The most recent favourite remains the Moscow concert performance (I never finished the Aix one either and I don’t see myself going back to it any time soon).

About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on February 27, 2016, in baroque and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. i finally sat through this thing (half hearted, as usual , working and listening with occasional glances to see if anything catching the eyes..) and have some conclusions:
    1. The singing is quite good at times! N.Cabell has a very nice first verse of “si son quella”, opening verse of “ah mio cor”.. i vaguely remembered ombra palide, but as you said a nice last aria. One is very relieved she was NOT burned via gasoline…, urgh
    1a. on singing as well, M.Barcelli’s Verdi Prati was really nice.. the rest… i think i made mistakes of glancing whenever she was singing.. and let’s just say i’m completely unfamiliar with her acting but whatever i saw was a complete turn off.. and here we are just unsure if we must blame the director or her style.. i think it’s fair to see her in different work before passing more comments..
    1b. I really like K.Harmarström’s voice.. she did well as usual in term of navigating the difficult and fast arias, similar to in Wien.. she was not as enthusiastic re. the antics as M.Barcelli was so one could feel as if she can not wait for the whole thing to be over…
    1c. the tenor! you’re right! his voice and phrasing is VERY nice! and i think he put his foot down and said f it, i’m not acting up this stupid horror show.. so we get to see him doing not much but singing exquisitely. i guess i will take that.

    the conductor is a BIG fan of jerkiness! i’ve never heard a whole Alcina (right from the overture) being sooo jumpy.. and you can not tell is N.Cabell’s “di cor mio” was jumpy because that’s her style of phrasing or that she was obliged to follow him…
    the cheap horror movie, that’s what it looks like. Every time I heard some nice singing from N.Cabell for example i looked and she was doing something totally contrary .. as if she has separated her body from her phrasing so as to help those of us who only listen to feel the beauty of the music…
    finally, it was a huge applause from all the audiences, many many times.. as well as raving comments on fb.. not a single boo compared to Mitridate! so i’m guessing we might be missing something really big by seeing it on screen instead of in-haus?
    last note.. this staging reminds me a bit of the occasional staging i see in the US where they think the audience might be bored with the music so let us make a comedy show out of the piece.. So to conclude, it was much more bearable if one does not look.. though the herky-jerky conducting was still a bit too much for me… (but he did calm down and have some nice passages during the 2.5hr thing.. oh ja, and many things were cut.. i guess they’re low on budget..)

    • Cheers for the commentary. I am very surprised it was so liked on fb. It’s the kind of fake stylish production that gets on my tits. I wonder what was wrong with Mitridate. Is that one up somewhere?

      • up on arte and yt, here’s the link, very lovely, i’ve watched it at least 14x.. might have been many more in certain sections…

        • 14 times?! That’s some recommendation 😀 and people hated this?

          • make it 16x.. and swooning… i guess you’ve been busy and have not visited Anik’s site this past week either..

          • “and people hated this?”
            there was some loud booing at curtain call.. may be it’s a french thing.. clearly they didn’t see what i saw 😉

          • ps2- it’s shocking that you hear no complaint from me re. the CT farnace.. in fact a mezzo would have made this perfect 😀 .. but since when you hear i’d take a soprano over all? (and i hope you like sopranos coz clearly young mozart was very fond of them.. and amazingly am quite impressed with them here…)

            • I normally don’t care about Sifare (bit whiny) but I suddenly became very interested! Haha. I know what you mean but you could say soprano winning over CT is a very good turn indeed. Depends on soprano, really 😉 some of them are excellent at trouser roles.

              • this is the 2nd time i ever listened to this opera (first was audio w/ gruberova + VK.. and A.Auger i think! ) anyhow, i didn’t read up the synopsis until the 13x into this version.. , so the whole opera was about this caring tender Sifare and lovingly Aspasia.. i think this is the proper way to get introduced 😉 ( i mean seriously introduced! just like poppea with SM in boots and uniform w/ rose, this one has a killer start to suck innocent bystanders like me in!)

                • yea, that Ottone has stuck with me too! I even thought about it when we met her 😀

                  I’m glad we live in the DVD era; sometimes it’s easier to get into an opera via visuals 😉 I actually didn’t care about bloody La finta giardiniera until I read Anik’s story.

                  Gruberova, VK and Auger were in this? Interesting.

                  • just woke up and read “Oronte” and “her” and i thinking what is going on 😉
                    i might have freely desiring VK in the trio.. but here’s Gruberova and Auger , i bought the recording i think..

                    • An all female Alcina would solve that problem.

                      thanks for the G + A link = awesome coloratura work.

                    • i was thinking the same about Mitridate!

                    • it almost is 😉 but I think Mitridate should stay a man.

                    • wow, i finally listened to that link.. it’s soooo polished! (and high!) suuch contrast to the current obsession.. i think it’s lower pitch w/ E.Haïm’s version? i also like the warmth and heftier of the voices (clearly obsessed.. ok, i leave you be, you know what i listening to for the rest of the day/week..)

                    • have you seen the Ponnelle Mitridate? it’s also polished and high and there’s 0 stage movement.

                    • clearly not 😀 , no i didn’t know this opera AT ALL until last last sat when this was aired.. in fact i only tuned in b/c of E.Haïm and her orchestra… and proceeded to get so distracted i showed up at the conference thinking all along it was a different meeting.. and missed the entire first day of important talks specific to my research..

                    • blame it on sopranos! haha. I’m not sure I get what the staging is about but I like what I’m seeing 😀

                    • it helps a lot not knowing the story.. i didn’t pay much attention either until minute 15… 😀 (it took the fab tall sop a bit to warm up vocally.. but i give her extra buffered credits in the name of shirt tucking and buttoning techniques..)
                      also, the 2 main sopranos singing female roles were sublime! the one singing Ismene with some exquisite pianissimos! she needed a mezzo Farnace to tame! PP: i’m catching on to how good she is!
                      finally, the orchestration is fabulous!!

                    • yea, I’ve never seen such careful shirt tucking in an opera yet! I prefered the tank top action (and shirt chucking) but I noticed the many undone buttons 😉 singing, what singing? I haven’t listened to it properly, this is just a “visual warm-up” 😀

                    • it takes many rounds to get all the nuances i tell u 😉

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