Glyndebourne’s new staging of Handel’s magical fantasy Alcina (1735) is available to watch on the Sussex-based opera house’s online streaming service, Glyndebourne Encore. The production, which was originally slated for the 2020 festival, received its world premiere at the 2022 Glyndebourne Festival.
Glyndebourne Encore is a streaming platform giving on-demand access to highlights from Glyndebourne’s back catalogue of world-class opera, as well as newly filmed productions. Every month it delves deep into an individual opera, with revealing insights and exclusive interviews. The opera of the month for September is Francesco Micheli’s new version of Alcina.
The opera tells the story of the sorceress Alcina and her sister Morgana, who live on an enchanted island where nothing is quite as it seems. What appears to be a verdant paradise is in fact a barren desert, transfigured by their magic; what look like streams, animals and rocks are really Alcina’s former lovers, discarded and bewitched.
The sorceress has now fallen in love with the handsome knight Ruggiero, but he is betrothed to the faithful Bradamante. Can love transform Alcina? Or, faced with her lover’s desertion, will she once again choose vengeance and violence?
Director Micheli, along with set designer Edoardo Sanchi and costume designer Alessio Rosati, have created a lavish, visually spectacular production. Drawing on Italian history, they put a contemporary spin on this classic Handel opera.
Micheli has relocated the action from the Italian Renaissance to a 1960s Italian city. Alcina is now a nightclub-cum-variety show proprietor – as well as its main attraction – while Ruggerio is a businessman who frequents the club, which is called Isola di Alcina.
This new production is “the latest in a line of bold and inventive stagings of works by Handel at Glyndebourne, following Theodora (1750), Rodelinda (1725), Giulio Cesare (1724), Rinaldo (1711) and Saul (1739),” Glyndebourne said in a statement.
The cast is led by Canadian soprano Jane Archibald as the titular Alcina. Joining her on stage are British soprano Soraya Mafi as Morgana, American mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey, winner of the 2018 Glyndebourne Opera Cup, as the knight Ruggiero and Scottish mezzo-soprano Beth Taylor as his fiancée Bradamante. Maestro Jonathan Cohen conducts the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
Subscribers to Glyndebourne Encore can watch Alcina in full, with a special introduction by opera specialist Alexandra Coghlan, who talks to director Francesco Micheli, costume designer Alessio Rosati and costume supervisor Diane Williams to explore the opera, discussing who this innovative new staging came into being.
Glyndebourne Encore can be accessed via any web browser, Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, Roku and Amazon Fire TV. An annual subscription costs £79.99 or £59.99 for Glyndebourne Members.
All four new productions from the 2022 Glyndebourne Festival were filmed live this summer for release on Glyndebourne Encore. Melly Still’s landmark production of Dame Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers (1906) is available now, while live recordings of Laurent Pelly’s Poulenc double-bill of La voix humaine (The Human Voice, 1959) and Les mamelles de Tirésias (The Breasts of Tiresias, 1947) and Floris Visser’s new take on Puccini’s La bohème (The Bohemians, 1896) arrive on the platform in October and November respectively.
Glyndebourne’s productions of the operas Giulio Cesare and Rinaldo, along with Saul, a dramatic oratorio, are also available to watch on Glyndebourne Encore. They form part of a list of 25 productions on the streaming service, along with a number of archive audio recordings and filmed concerts.
Francesco Micheli’s visually stunning new version of Handel’s Alcina, which received its world premiere at this year’s Glyndebourne Festival, is now available to watch via online streaming service Glyndebourne Encore.