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.
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.
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).