George Friderich Handel
The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, London, UK
Royal Opera House at Covent Garden
Alcina is an opera by one of my most favorite composers, George Frideric Handel. I have been fortunate to design quite a few of his opera, primarily due to the fact that after the neglect Handel’s operas suffered in 19th century, performances of his operas increased, especially during second half of 20th century. Handel was exceptionally prolific; he composed over 40 operas. Though of German origin, Handel spent his long career in England. Most people today know him as the composer of Messiah composed in 1742, but his compositions range from operas, cantatas, hymns, and orchestral works to songs, and wind ensemble works.
Alcina was first performed at Covent Garden Theater in 1735. I first designed Alcina at Opera Theater of St. Louis, directed by Stephen Wadsworth in 1987. In 1992 Stephen Wadsworth asked me to re-design our original production for The Royal Opera House in London. This beautiful opera house was built on the site of the original Covent Garden Theater where Alcina premiered in 18th century. The Royal Opera house has a starry history. To perform there and to design there has been the ambition of many generations of artists.
The story of Alcina is enchanted and enchanting. It is based on the epic poem, Orlando Furioso (The Frenzy of Orlando) by Italian poet Ludovico Aristo published in 1532. It describes the story of a Christian knight, Orlando. In Alcina, Orlando becomes Ruggiero who is loved by Bradamante. Like Orlando, Ruggiero very rarely stays in one place for long. Instead he is involved in adventures that force Bradamante to chase after him. Alcina is a beautiful sorceress who with her sister Morgana owns an island that serves as an erotic trap for any male who ventures near it. When Ruggiero arrives at the island he learns that Alcina soon tires of her lovers, and when she does, she turns them into plants, or stones, or animals. Ruggiero is undaunted, and resolves to meet Alcina. Bradamante also arrives on the island in pursuit of Ruggiero and, as is to be expected, creates problems for both Alcina and Ruggiero. Though the story may seem silly, it is actually a poignant testament to the torment of love and infidelity.
Our production was set in the period it was written in, mid-18th century. My experience with designing for The Royal Opera House could not have been more positive. My costume designs were turned into beautifully crafted costumes.
Next production, Ghost Sonata.