Information

Composer Georg Friedrich Händel

Thursday, 12. July 2007
06:30 pm – 10:45 pm
Prinzregententheater

Duration est. 4 hours 15 minutes

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Cast

Musikalische Leitung
Christopher Moulds
Inszenierung
Christof Loy
Choreographie
Beate Vollack
Bühne und Kostüme
Herbert Murauer
Licht
Reinhard Traub

Alcina
Anja Harteros
Ruggiero
Vesselina Kasarova
Morgana
Veronica Cangemi
Bradamante
Sonia Prina
Oronte
Benjamin Hulett
Melisso
Sergio Foresti
Oberto
Deborah York
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Bradamante has gone off in quest of her fiancé Ruggiero. This quest takes her to an island ruled over by the sorceress Alcina. Theatre magic, erotic experimentation, perfidious experiments on men! Alcina has used this - since the world première of the opera 270 years ago: to show that desire and reality are hardly compatible. Stage director Christof Loy, whose production of Händel's Saul in Munich had the international opera world craving for even more Händel, has scored a major triumph for baroque opera in our own time with this staging.

 

Act One

During the day.

Bradamante has set off in search of her lost fiancé, Ruggiero. She travels disguised as her own brother, Ricciardo, and has chosen Melisso, her guardian, to accompany her.

Purely by chance they find themselves just where they want to be, on the magic island that is ruled over by the beautiful Alcina. Bradamante suspects that Ruggiero has succumbed to the seductive charms of the sorceress and, bedazzled by her, has forgotten his duty, his friends, and his devotion to his betrothed.
Bradamante and Melisso are welcomed by Alcina’s sister, Morgana. Morgana fails to realize that Bradamante is a woman and soon develops tender feelings for the supposed youth.

Before Bradamante has time to escape the first attestations of tenderness, she finds herself face to face with Alcina and Ruggiero, inseparable, as she had suspected. Alcina welcomes the strangers and openly declares her love for Ruggiero. Young Oberto asks Melisso and Bradamante whether they know what has happened to his father, Astolfo,  for whom he is searching. They do not dare to tell him that they suspect that his father was once Alcina’s lover who, when she grew tired of him, suffered a transformation into an animal at her hands.

Bradamante takes Ruggiero to task, but Ruggiero, really believing that he is speaking to Ricciardo, the brother of his betrothed, mocks "him" and Melisso for their moral reproaches. He will never leave Alcina.
Despised by Ruggiero and under increasing pressure as a result of Morgana’s love, Bradamante now faces a further dilemma: Morgana’s jealous lover, Oronte, has noticed his mistress‘ fond glances in the direction of the "young stranger". Only with great difficulty does Bradamante manage to avoid a duel.

Morgana uses Oronte’s fit of jealousy as a reason for rejecting him. Embittered, Oronte tries to revenge himself by telling Ruggiero that Alcina has fallen in love with Ricciardo and that he, Ruggiero, will soon, like all her former lovers, be transformed into an animal by the sorceress. Ruggiero takes Alcina to task in the presence of "Ricciardo".Hurt at the idea that he could think she was unfaithful, she leaves her beloved with his supposed rival. Bradamante can no longer bear to hide her true identity from Ruggiero, but Ruggiero does not believe what she tells him. Alcina should now prove her love for him by getting rid of his hated rival. Morgana wants to protect Bradamante/Ricciardo from her sister’s evil spells and urges her to flee. In despair and completely confused, Bradamante throws herself into Morgana’s arms. Alcina should not worry, she says. "Tell her I love another." Delighted, Morgana interprets these words as an avowal of love for herself.

Act Two

At night.

Ruggiero is looking for Alcina, who is keeping out of his way. Melisso appears disguised as Ruggiero’s former tutor Atlante and gives him a magic ring. The ring has the power to remove the spell Alcina has cast over him and Ruggiero at once recovers from his infatuation. He is immediately filled with a great longing to see his beloved Bradamante again. When she then appears before him and reveals her true identity, he concludes that this is another of Alcina’s spells and rebuffs her angrily. Gradually, however, Ruggiero begins to see what has really happened. Alcina and Morgana both sense a feeling of strangeness towards themselves in the men they love but cannot explain it. When Oronte tells them that Ruggiero has joined the stranger and is secretly getting ready to leave, Alcina is heartbroken.

Morgana does not want to believe that she, too, has been betrayed, but she eavesdrops on a conversation between Bradamante and Ruggiero and is forced to realize that she has been doubly betrayed: it is a woman, not a man, who has lied to her and betrayed her.
Ruggiero bids the magic world a sad farewell while Alcina tries in vain to conjure up the spirits to help her regain Ruggiero’s love. She curses her magic powers and falls into a deep sleep full of tormented dreams.

Act Three

In the early hours of the next morning.

Morgana rediscovers her tender feelings for Oronte, who takes her hesitantly into his arms and forgives her fickleness. Alcina, on the other hand, fails in her last desperate attempt to keep Ruggiero’s affections. He is determined to fight for his freedom, with weapons if necessary, should Alcina try to stop him with her magic powers.
Alcina’s forces are beaten by Ruggiero and his allies.

Powerless and filled with feelings of revenge, she tries to force young Oberto to kill his own father, who has been turned into an animal. Instead, however, Oberto raises his sword against Alcina; when Ruggiero is also prepared to kill Alcina the magic realm collapses.
Ruggiero is celebrated as the liberator of the realm.

Christof Loy - Notes on the Production

Seven characters are brought together on Alcina's enchanted island, seven individuals of heterogeneous origin, with different philosophies of life and dissimilar personal goals and needs. This place becomes a utopia for them all, a place where their wishes can come true. They are only vouchsafed the taste of one blissful moment, from which they must quickly take their leave, because Alcina's magical isle is an unreal, totally ephemeral place.

In Alcina's beautiful, illusory world, people have no need to cope with reality. Politics, wars, commerce and moral obligations have no place this counter-world. Here, it's all about emotional needs and the possibility of living them out unconditionally. In this sense, the title character is set apart by one factor that we quickly recognize as socially inadmissible: an oversized, egotistical need for emotions, which she allows herself to demand from others, but which she would also like to bestow on them. Alcina loves the sensation of happiness and would also like to pass it on in her own way. Unlike the late romantic era, which runs away into the night with its longings, Alcina's magical world presents itself as a bright daydream.

Bradamante and Melisso now penetrate into this world from the outside; they gradually take over power in this domain, so that even Alcina is forced to defend herself and her dreams. This way, the conflict that gradually develops, becomes a struggle against a system in which people withdraw from responsibility for their fellow human beings. Almost interpretable as a foresight of the political upheavals at the end of the 18th century, here we see how the absolute monarchy of Queen Alcina shatters, and a bourgeois world dominated by morality and common sense takes over.

For a long time Alcina thought she didn't need to consider what happens to the people she uses to satisfy her lusts and then casts aside. She, the autocratic queen, has limitless access to whatever means she wants to employ. Now she finds herself faced with an unfamiliar situation when she falls in love with a man, Ruggiero, for the first time in her life. In constant worry about this love, which in the course of the plot is less and less reciprocated by Ruggiero, Alcina clearly realizes her loss of dignity in the eyes of the others, making hers more and more vulnerable. In these moments, she remembers her old magic power, but it has lost its effectiveness, because this intense emotionality has made every form of dissimulation impossible. But her love for Ruggiero unhinges her power, makes all deception and enchantment inoperative, and turns the mistress of disguise into an undisguised woman in love. This way, as the story progresses, Alcina realizes that in the core of her being she is a very vulnerable woman, who senses that everything she has created is totally unreal and just as fragile as her relationship with Ruggiero.

For the figure of Alcina, Händel has composed music that almost forces the viewer and listener to fall in love with this woman. We realize how totally ruled by emotion she is, as she begins to perceive her innocence. Finally the differentiation between offenders and victims becomes more and more impossible in this give and take of emotions and injuries. Excitingly enough, here Händel shows no interest in the usual male and female attributes. The chivalrous Ruggiero is initially soft and malleable, while his fiancée Bradamante in male garb reveals herself to be enormously virile and combative. Not until the third act, which realigns the existing dis-order in terms of convention, does Ruggiero gain heroic features, while Bradamante's return to the traditional role of the diffident wife is also described. For just this reason, we develop a great fondness for Alcina, because she is a woman with an uninhibited sensitivity to the pleasures of the senses. She promises a certain intoxication, fascinated as we are by her unaccustomed immoderateness. Everything she does, she does to excess. But for that very reason Alcina becomes the kind of character we need in our ordered world.

Alcina focuses on people who fulsomely express themselves about the state of their feelings. In doing this, they are not alone in comprehending their own beings, but allow us to share in this process of recognition and realization. Despite the conventional mid-eighteenth century specification to display entire arias and with them contrasting sequences of emotion in Italian opera seria, today these works allow for a psychological interpretation and staging of the characters. Each phrase, each coloratura passage, each ornamentation forms a comprehensive dramaturgy, a prism of emotional reflections, which we seek to intermingle in our production in such a way that it is not a series of arias and emotions, but rather a dialogue amongst the characters in the drama.

In his score, Händel designs a complex image of the human being, his needs, fears and desires. He molds all the characters musically with great love and understanding, regardless of the position they assume in the historical-hierarchical scheme of things. With huge generosity, he portrays the spectrum of human behavior and dysfunction.

English Translation by Donald Arthur

© Bavarian State Opera

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Biographies

Christopher Moulds stammt aus Halifax/USA und studierte Klavier und Dirigieren u. a. an der Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London und am Londoner Royal College of Music. Er gastierte u. a. am Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, am Bolschoi-Theater in Moskau, an der Opéra National de Lyon, am Teatro Real Madrid, an der Semperoper Dresden, am Opernhaus Zürich, am Aalto-Musiktheater in Essen, am Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, an der Berliner Staatsoper, am Theater an der Wien und an der Komischen Oper Berlin sowie bei den Festspielen in Salzburg, Bregenz und Glyndebourne. Er dirigiert Werke von Monteverdi, Händel und Mozart bis Brittens The Turn of the Screw. Zudem widmete er sich zeitgenössischen Opern wie Birtwistles Punch and Judy. Dirigat an der Bayerischen Staatsoper 2017/18: La Calisto. (Stand: 2017)

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