Magical transformations...

The Bolshoi aspires to perform the great music of Handel! Alcina replaces Rodelinda, an outstanding performance (also a coproduction – this time with the English National Opera), which was shown on the New Stage from December 2015 to December 2016.

In 2015, this production adorned the program of Aix-en-Provence festival. Katie Mitchell, one of the most sought-after British directors, created a brave, provocative, uncompromising and absolutely bewitching performance. Of course, this staging is one of the most original interpretations of Handel's opera.

Handel’s contemporaries perceived this opera as a moral allegory. For example, the Universal Spectator, a newspaper founded by Daniel Defoe (the author of Robinson Crusoe), published a review intended to prove that “the nature of Alcina’s beauty coupled with her levity shows the swiftness of all earthly pleasures (…) but nothing can keep the feckless and stubborn young man from seeking out imaginary or fleeting pleasures”.

Heather Engebretson as Alcina.

On the contrary, Katie Mitchell treated Alcina as an allegory of unlimited power unbridled in all its forms, such as love, magic, violence - and stages the opera as a gothic novel or a horror movie. Insatiable in their sexual ambitions the weird sisters do pretty unpleasant things with men. “The opera’s production history has often presented the romance of Alcina,” Mitchell says, “but we thought the two sisters would have a different type of sex they would like, and get, and the problem is that one sister falls in love, which upsets the whole balance.” “Upstairs there’s a machine. You put a naked man in it, press a button, and he comes out as a stuffed animal! People laugh at the idea, but actually, it’s really close to the original libretto.” (Opera News, 2016).

Designer Chloe Lamford created the set in the same manner as she did for Written on Skin. The set was divided into five areas located on two levels, with a luxurious boudoir in the centre. There are more areas and more heroines than usual. In Katie Mitchell’s production Alcina and Morgana are seen looking both old and young. Both are performed by singers (representing youth and freshness) and a dramatic actresses (representing maturity). Upon entering the boudoir they transform from an old witches into a wild cats and vice versa.

Andrea Marcon, conductor, organist and harpsichordist, an acknowledged expert in baroque music, he conducted the Freiburger Barockorcheste at the premiere of Alcina in Aix-en-Provence in the summer of 2015, in current performance he will lead the Bolshoi Orchestra.

Andrea Marcon, conductor.