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The Royal Opera at its greatest in Richard Jones’s new Alcina at Covent Backyard – Seen and Heard Worldwide


United Kingdom Handel (ed. Flesch) Alcina: Soloists, Orchestra of the Royal Opera Home / Christian Curnyn (conductor). Royal Opera Home, Covent Backyard, 14.11.2022 (CC)

Lisette Oropesa (Alcina) © Marc Brenner

Manufacturing:
Director – Richard Jones
Designer –Anthony McDonald
Lighting designer – Lucy Carter
Motion director/Choreographer – Sarah Fahie

Solid:
Alcina – Lisette Oropesa
Ruggiero – Emily D’Angelo
Morgana – Mary Bevan
Bradamante – Varduhi Abrahamyan
Oronte – Rupert Charlesworth
Atlante – José Coca Loza
Oberto – Malakai M. Bayoh

It appears solely a second in the past that I reviewed Alcina at Glyndebourne this summer time (assessment click on right here) within the manufacturing by Francesco Micheli. Setting the opera within the Nineteen Fifties/60s, Micheli appeared to attempt a little bit too arduous. Richard Jones’s manufacturing may be busy, however it works superbly. There may be, rightly, an aura of magic right here, however associated to our modern age: the ‘magic urn’ is an enormous bottle of fragrance, and to activate its magic, Alcina should spray fragrance. The enchanted forest was wheeled on and off-stage and a software shed (equally cellular) supplies the proper spot for some nookie for Morgana and Oronte (and really humorous it was, too).

Initially, we see Puritans, and their conversion into the animals that pervade the opera (the masks are nothing in need of miraculous). The top of the night brings a ‘shock’ gesture. In all probability greatest to not spoil it, however frankly it felt underwhelming, a little bit trite, though it will get the laughs. However that’s principally the one criticism. Lighting by Lucy Carter is a crucial a part of the magical ambiance pervading all through the efficiency. It’s a lengthy night – 6.30pm to 10.25pm – however the level is it didn’t really feel it, due in nice half to the orchestra’s contribution, Christian Curnyn, greater than well-versed within the music of this era, drew tremendous enjoying, augmented by a tremendous continuo part. The instrumental element was typically joyously pointed; plus, Curnyn is aware of the best way to tempo the piece.

Alcina is a piece of genius, itself premiered at Covent Backyard in April 1735. A wealthy sense of historical past certainly – and but at instances the music felt as if it had been penned yesterday.

Malakai M. Bayoh (Oberto) and Varduhi Abrahamyan (Bradamante) © Marc Brenner

This specific run has gained some notoriety due to heckling on the primary night time. The boy in query, Malakai M. Bayoh, who sings Oberto, the kid in quest of his father Astolfo, was singing on this night time – effectively, for certain – and was lauded with tumultuous applause. Courageous certainly to tackle a component that entails such vocal challenges, and a pleasure to see and listen to.

There is no such thing as a doubt that Lisette Oropesa as Alcina was the large identify draw right here, and, in her sparkly cocktail costume, she appeared the a part of a famous person. And customarily she appeared like one, though maybe much less so initially. The magic got here within the later acts, whereas her Act I ‘Di’, cor mio, quanto t’amai’ felt barely muted; by the point we obtained to the third act ‘Ma quando tornerai’, although, this was Oropesa at her perfect, nimble, shiny of voice and fully inside the position.

With Oropesa within the solid, and even figuring out and admiring Mary Bevan’s singing, it nonetheless got here as a nice shock to search out an absolute assembly of equals right here. Bevan has a superbly pure voice, good pitching and, it seems, impeccable Handelian model as Alcina’s sister, Morgana. Her ‘Tornami a vagheggiar’ was one of many true highlights of the night, the interiorisation within the central part a factor of magnificence. Bevan can act effectively, too, and persuade with each humour and deeply touching feelings in a single night. If anybody had a real triumph – and was constant from first sung notice to final – it was Bevan.

How lovely, too, was Emily D’Angelo’s ‘Verdi prati’, luminously shaded and phrased, the instrumental ensemble diminished to the merest whisper. That is Handel at his best, and collectively Curnyn and D’Angelo created a tapestry of utter magnificence. Varduhi Abrahamyan was a tremendous Bradamante (Ruggiero’s spouse, disguised as her brother ‘Ricciardo’), despatching ‘Vorrei vendicarmi’ with a lot aplomb. Rupert Charlesworth was a robust Oronte (Alcina’s steward, in love with Morgana) who appeared very connected to his gardening shed when he wasn’t repurposing it. José Coca Loza was a robust Atlante (Ruggiero’s ‘elder’, a Puritan, who disguises himself as Melisso, a sailor).

The night is a visible deal with. The latest Tosca at ENO combined costume kinds from completely different intervals, and this does one thing related. There is no such thing as a denying the sprinkling of that magic mud over the complete night. Motion director Sarah Fahie creates absolute miracles – the entire is tight as a drum. An acid check may be, if this was somebody’s first Handel opera, would they arrive out transformed. Absolutely solely the stoniest coronary heart wouldn’t embrace the nice grasp’s music right here. That is The Royal Opera at its greatest.

Colin Clarke

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