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Handel’s ‘Alcina’ begins St. Pete Opera Season 18

Bill DeYoung



St. Petersburg Opera Company cast and orchestra rehearse "Alcina" on the Palladium stage Oct. 10. Photo: Jim Swallow/Packinghouse Gallery.

St. Petersburg Opera Company begins Season 18 this weekend with a production of Alcina, a 1735 Italian opera by baroque composer George Frideric Handel.

Typical of many operas of the period, Alcina – first produced in London – has supernatural components. “Alcina is a sorceress, and she has a sister sorceress, Morgana,” explains SPO artistic director Mark Sforzini. “Basically, they’re just people who are looking for love, but along the way there’s troubles and jealousies.”

Troubles and jealousies. Love, power, betrayal. In other words, hallmarks of every opera ever written.

“She’s turned her ex-lovers into animals. And she’s taken a new lover, Ruggiero, and his betrothed Bradamante comes to the mansion disguised as a man, and to try to win Ruggiero back.”

Alcina will be performed in Italian, with English subtitles projected above.

Story does matter, Sforzini insists, because every time out, it helps (along with the costumed pageantry of the production) in the appreciation of the sublime music. “Alcina sings six arias throughout the opera, and you really see the arc of her character changing,” he explains.

“At the beginning, she plays herself as simply just a wonderful, fabulous woman who’s in love. But you begin to see her manipulative-ness emerge. Then you see her anger, and her sadness … and she sorta starts to lose her powers.” And, of course, it all comes to a head at story’s end.

Sforzini, who’ll conduct the 20-piece orchestra, chose this cast and chorus from more than 250 professional opera singers who auditioned, both locally and in New York City.

Returning favorites include soprano Alexandra Batsios as the title character, coloratura soprano Holly Flack as Morgana and mezzo-soprano Caitlyn McKechney as Bradamante (McKechney, a New York resident, was in town six months ago with her “other” project, Opera Cowgirls).

Making his SPO debut is countertenor Cody Bowers as Ruggiero.

Others in the cast include Miles Herr, Brianna Murray and Matthew Anchel. The stage director is Matt Haney; choreography is by Daryl Gray.

Handel wrote more than 40 operas and ran three opera companies. “He was,” says Sforzini, “like the King of Baroque Opera.”

Two years after the premiere of Alcina, Handel underwent a health crisis – he suffered a series of strokes, “when he recovered he decided to be done with opera and just focused on English oratorios,” according to Sforzini.

From 1741, the English oratorio “Messiah” premiered; over the centuries it has become one of the best-known and beloved choral works in the repertoire, and the music on which George Frideric Handel’s legend was made.

St. Petersburg Opera Company’s Alcina is presented in Hough Hall, the Palladium Theater. Performances Friday (Oct. 13) at 8 p.m., Sunday (Oct. 15) at 2 p.m., Tuesday (Oct. 17) at 7:30 p.m. Find tickets here.










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