Review: Opera North’s Alcina – La Mancunion

At first glance, the stage at the Lowry Theater shows rows of stage lights suspended just above ground level. Upon closer inspection, you see a minimalist office-like setting with several green chairs and cushions. The bearskin rug with its big head is eye-catching, but other than that it seems like a pretty simple set. The actors’ use of scenery was a very clever way to enhance the story and helped convey this Italian opera effectively.

As soon as the orchestra begins, however, the lights begin to come on and the gray screen in the back begins to form an eerie gray video of moving across the sea to a remote island. This, with Melissa (Claire Pascoe), in dark clothes with her raven stick walking along her back, presents a very dark and gloomy atmosphere. Once the backdrop video showed our arrival on this island, the show began. The black-and-white video continued throughout the show, moving through a story-defining jungle.

We are first introduced to Melissa and Ricciardo (Mari Askvik), whose boat ran aground on this island. Joining them on stage, we meet Morgana (Fflur Wyn), Oronte (Nick Pritchard), Ruggiero (Patrick Terry) and the queen of the island, Alcina (Sky Ingram). It was no surprise that the voices of all these characters were sublime, perfectly complementing the orchestra. Immediately during this number, the romantic relationship between Ruggiero and Alcina becomes clear with them kissing, cuddling, and rolling on the floor together. Yes, if you are not a PDA fan, this opera is not for you. Their duet detailing their love for each other was not only extremely passionate, but was almost comical in their movements with them rolling on the bearskin rug.

Terry’s falsetto voice particularly stood out for its impressiveness, and I can only applaud his stamina for maintaining it throughout the performance; this opera is anything but easy to sing! Ingram, a high soprano replacing Máire Flavin, effortlessly hit top Bs and Cs with an exceptionally strong voice. The strong and powerful aspect of Alcine was translated perfectly, but what was more impressive was her break with the character when she was heartbroken at the end.

As the show went on, it was revealed that Ricciardo was actually Bradamante, a former lover of Ruggiero who had come to find him. twelfth night by Shakespeare immediately comes to mind, with similarities in how the genre becomes masked. A role played by a woman pretending to be a man who is actually a woman might seem like a confusing concept, but it was a very enjoyable part of the story. However, upon Ruggiero realizing that Ricciardo is Bradamante, the lights were lowered once more, just like at the start of the show. This concept was confusing, and I felt it didn’t add much.

Of all the characters, Orontes is the one you feel particularly sorry for. He is constantly pushed around by Alcina and is often simply ignored by the other characters. As soon as Ricciardo arrives on the island, Orontes’ wife Morgana leaves him, stating that she is in love with Ricciardo. He is obviously devastated and becomes inconsolable, seeing as he takes all his clothes off (yes, he takes all his clothes off). When Morgana discovers that Ricciardo is actually Bradamante, she tries to return to Orontes, but he tries to refuse her. She then sadly takes off her clothes (yes, more clothes are taken off). However, while you want Oronte to grow into a single, independent man who doesn’t need Morgana, he ends up coming back to her, exclaiming that he can’t help his love.

The show’s themes of love, loss and power were conveyed extremely well by Opera North, with the modern setting providing a pleasing take on this classic piece. A 100% sustainable production, it was nice to see a company showcasing the enjoyable and entertaining nature of opera.

Alcine played at the Lowry for just one night and visit the UK for another 10 days!

About Madeline J. Carter

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