George Frideric Handel devoted years to writing serious operas for the Royal Academy of Music, a collective of wealthy Londoners bent on keeping the famed Baroque composer’s works flowing.
But by the 1730s, Handel stepped away from the academy and toward more fantastical and heroic operas. Out of that period came Alcina, an adaptation of a 16th-century epic poem that premiered in 1735 and then all but disappeared for almost 200 years. Today, it is widely regarded as one of the composer's most beautiful works.
Oberlin Opera Theater will present Handel’s otherworldly Alcina for four performances beginning at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 9. Additional shows include 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 11 and 12, and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 13. All performances take place in Hall Auditorium (67 N. Main St.) on the Oberlin College campus.
Oberlin’s Alcina is directed by Associate Professor of Opera Theater Jonathon Field and is performed by the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Christopher Larkin.
“Alcina is a Baroque Fantasy Island—a place where the sorceress Alcina rules by magic,” says Field. “She uses this to bewitch people into believing that the island is a place of their dreams and that she is their beautiful queen. When she tires of her suitors, she changes them into flowers, rocks, and waves, where they remain locked. Her downfall comes when she falls in love with one of them, and he sees her and the island for what they really are.”
At times unmistakably absurd in its depiction of a Renaissance-era alternative universe, Alcina is powered by its gorgeous arias and supported by rich costumes that bring the characters to life.
Despite its far-flung setting, the opera is grounded in themes that resonate in the real world of today. “It is an opera about loyalty and faithfulness, and about seeing the world for what it really is,” says Field. “It is about the triumph of true devotion over surface images.”
Tickets to Alcina are $10 ($8 for all students), available by calling 800-371-0178, online at oberlin.edu/artsguide, or by visiting Oberlin’s Central Ticket Service at Hall Auditorium weekdays from noon-5 p.m.
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