Monday, April 20, 2009

Opera is for drama queens (and those who love them)

video
Ah Ruggiero crudel, tu no mi amasti .... Cruel Ruggiero You don’t love me
Ah che fingesti ancor, e m'ingannasti ... Yet you pretended to, and deceived me
E pur ti adora ancor fido mio core........ And still my faithful heart adores you.
Ah Ruggiero crudel ah, traditore ....... O cruel Ruggiero You traitor

Del pallido Acheronte spiriti abitatori,.... You native spirits of livid Acheron,
e della notte ministri di vendetta,........ avenging ministers of the night,
cieche figlie crudeli, a me venite ........ blind, cruel daughters, come to me
Secondate i miei voti,..................... Back up my desire
perché Ruggiero amato................... to prevent my beloved Ruggiero
non fugga da me ingrato................ from his ungrateful escape.

Ma ohimé misera .................... But, alas Misery
e quale insolita tardanza?........... What strange tardiness is this?
eh non m'udite?....................... Hey Can’t you hear me?
Vi cerco, e vi ascondete?........... I seek you, but you hide?
Vi comando, e tacete?............... I command you, yet you’re mum?
Evvi inganno? evvi frode?.......... You would deceive me? Cheat me?
La mia verga fatal non ha possanza?... Has my dreaded wand lost its power?
Vinta, delusa Alcina, e che ti avanza?... Defeated, deceived Alcina. What do you have left?
This accompanied recitative (very uncommon for the time of the composition) should drive home to us just how dramatically adept Georg Friedrich Händel was as an opera composer. In this scene toward the end of the second act of Alcina, the sorceress is distressed over the news that Ruggiero, the knight that she had cast her love magic over to keep as her lover, has finally came to his senses and is planning on escaping from her isolated island with his betrothed Bradamante. Stirred into an emotional frenzy, Alcina takes out her magic wand and attempts to summon the evil spirits that she usually command to hex the two escapees... Alas, the shock of romantic rejection appears to have eroded her power.

Listen to the orchestra. Listen for what isn’t there when she calls for supernatural help. Sometimes... silence is the most compelling dramatic statement when it comes to music.
And if you are as blown away by the vocal acting of the Alcina in this clip as I am, run to the music store near you and buy the Archiv Produktion CD set of the opera starring Joyce DiDonato in the title role (with Maite Beaumont, Sonia Prina, and Karina Gauvin). It is the only recording of the opera done at Baroque pitch and with a mezzo-soprano Alcina. The rest of the cast range from fine to very good, though the studio recording is more like a strings of beautifully sung arias than a full performance of the opera even though all the cast members are very theatrically adept during the recitatives (I'm afraid maestro Alan Curtis insisted on ornamenting the music so much that most of the singers lose the ‘drama-oriented’ flare half-way into the arias and are transformed into just singing machine... They have all they can handle just to sing all the notes imposed on them).

2 comments:

Geisslein said...

Thanks for your always lovely comments at my blog! Wish you a great day today - sunny greetings, geisslein

Smorg said...

Hallo Geisslein,
My pleasure! And thank you for all the wonderful photos and comments you post, too.

I hope Germany is being beautiful this time of year. Cheery greetings from sunny San Diego!

Smorg :o)