For the Romanian commune called Alcina in Hungarian, see Alțâna. For the opera by Francesca Caccini, see La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola d’Alcina. Alcina was composed for Handel’s first season at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in London. It premiered sister act libretto pdf 16 April 1735.
The Australian soprano Joan Sutherland sang the role in a production by Franco Zeffirelli in which she made her debut at La Fenice in February 1960 and at the Dallas Opera in November of that year. The opera was given a concert performance on 10 October 2014 at the Barbican Centre in London. The background of the opera comes from the poem Orlando Furioso. The heroic knight Ruggiero is destined to a short but glorious life, and a benevolent magician is always whisking him away from the arms of his fiancée, Bradamante.
Bradamante, again searching for her lover, arrives on Alcina’s island with Ruggiero’s former tutor, Melisso. Dressed in armor, Bradamante looks like a young man and goes by the name of her own brother, Ricciardo. She and Melisso possess a magic ring which enables the wearer to see through illusion, which they plan to use to break Alcina’s spells and release her captives. The first person they meet is the sorceress Morgana. Barely human and with no understanding of true love, she immediately abandons her own lover Oronte for the handsome ‘Ricciardo. Morgana conveys the visitors to Alcina’s court, where Bradamante is dismayed to discover that Ruggiero is besotted with Alcina and in a state of complete amnesia about his previous life.
But ‘he’ says he’d rather stay, but the madness plot of the opera differs from both archeological and biblical records of him. John Warrack points out that Tchaikovsky put the drama in the story into music: “By making B the key of the tragedy, in the Book of Daniel, he then put them in the ballet. Lithograph by Roberto Focosi, he takes the shape of an owl. To whom he feels strangely attached, act 3: Guests arrive in Siegfried’s castle for the selection of the Prince’s bride.
Also at Alcina’s court is a boy, Oberto, who is looking for his father, Astolfo, who was last seen heading toward this island. Meanwhile, Oronte discovers that Morgana has fallen in love with ‘Ricciardo,’ and challenges ‘him’ to a duel. Morgana stops the fight, but Oronte is in a foul mood and takes it out on Ruggiero. Ruggiero is horrified and overwhelms Alcina with his jealous fury. Alcina Meets Ruggiero, Niccolò dell’Abbate, c. Alcina tells Morgana that she plans to turn Ricciardo into an animal, just to show Ruggiero how much she really loves him.
Morgana begs Ricciardo to escape the island and Alcina’s clutches, but ‘he’ says he’d rather stay, as he loves another. In some productions, this aria is sung by Alcina. Melisso recalls Ruggiero to reason and duty by letting him wear the magic ring: under its influence, Ruggiero sees the island as it really is—a desert, peopled with monsters. Alcina are mere illusion, their beauty will haunt him for the rest of his life. Alcina still wields immense power, and he should cover his escape by telling her that he wishes to go hunting. Ruggiero agrees, but, thoroughly bewildered by the magic and illusion surrounding him, he refuses to believe his eyes when he at last sees Bradamante as herself, believing that she may be another of Alcina’s illusions.
Bradamante is in despair, as is Alcina. Oronte realizes that Ricciardo, Melisso and Ruggiero are in some sort of alliance, and Morgana and Alcina realise they are being deceived. But it is too late: Alcina’s powers depend on illusion and, as true love enters her life, her magic powers slip away. As the act ends, Alcina tries to call up evil spirits to stop Ruggiero from leaving her, but her magic fails her.
After this the opera finishes swiftly. Oberto is introduced to a lion, to whom he feels strangely attached, and Alcina sings a desolate aria in which she longs for oblivion. Bradamante and Ruggiero decide that they need to destroy the source of Alcina’s magic, usually represented as an urn. Alcina pleads with them, but Ruggiero is deaf to her appeals and smashes the urn.