An Often-Mystifying Production of Alcina Arrives in Madrid

SpainSpain Handel: Alcina, Teatro Real Orchestra, Christopher Moulds (conductor), Teatro Real, Madrid, 1 & 2. 11. 2015 (JMI)

Photo Javier Real
Photo (c) Javier del Real

Production: a coproduction with Opéra National de Bordeaux
Direction: David Alden
Sets and Costumes: Gideon Davey
Lighting: Simon Mills



Alcina: Karina Gauvin/Sofia Soloviy
Ruggero: Josè Maria Lo Monaco
Morgana: Anna Christy/Maria José Moreno
Bradamante: Sonia Prina/Angelique Noldus
Oronte: Allan Clayton/Anthony Gregory
Melisso: Luca Tittoto/Johannes Weisser
Oberto: Erika Escribà/ Francesca Lombardi Mazzuli


This David Alden staging is a coproduction with Bordeaux’s Opéra National and had its premiere there in May 2012. Mr. Alden, like Christopher Alden, his twin brother, belongs to the category of directors who seem to be always under the obligation to present “original” productions. Sometimes they work, but not this one.

I had the opportunity to see this staging in Bordeaux, and it was a surprise to me that Teatro Real did not include an explanation of Mr. Alden’s vision in the program notes. When you don’t understand what is happening on stage, despite super titles, something needs to be addressed. It’s especially puzzling if the viewer isn’t familiar with the opera. Here’s what I wrote after the Bordeaux premiere: Mr. Alden has introduced some changes in Madrid, but the concept is the same.

 The musical direction was in the hands of Christopher Moulds, who offered a very correct, very careful reading, but one that was somewhat lifeless. Baroque music is well served today, particularly by some truly exceptional conductors. Along with them are others who are always a real guarantee but never quite cross the line of the exceptional. Christopher Moulds belongs to this second category. Everything was in place, but it lacked emotion. The orchestra gave a solid performance, but I was surprised that the Teatro Real Chorus did not sing. They were replaced by the soloists, which did not make sense in the scene where the spellbound characters regain their human form.

In the first cast, Alcina was Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin, who offered a good interpretation. She has an attractive voice and sang with gusto, especially in the more intimate arias. She had the handicap of fighting with my memories of the performance by Joyce DiDonato in the same role last year. Ukrainian soprano Sofia Soloviy in the second cast was good but without any special brightness.

Due to the cancellation of Christine Rice, Italian mezzo soprano Josè Maria Lo Monaco sang the part of Ruggero in both casts. She didn’t do justice to such an important character: her voice is quite small in size, and her low notes are particularly weak, bordering on the inaudible.

The best singer of them all was Maria José Moreno as Morgana in the second cast. Her vocal and stage performance were faultless. It is now almost 13 years since the first time I saw her Morgana in Bilbao, and she is still outstanding. Anna Christy was several steps below Ms. Moreno. Her voice has a certain appeal but gets shrill and bitter at the top of the range.

Sonia Prina was well-suited to the part of Bradamante in vocal terms. She is a contralto, with enough volume and without problems in agilities, but her voice is not particularly interesting, and she was just a serviceable Bradamante. The presence of Angelique Noldus in the second cast must be an error. The character requires a contralto, and she is a mezzo-soprano with a small voice, poorly projected and completely inaudible as the tessitura turns south, which often happens in this opera.

In the first cast, Allan Clayton was a good interpreter of Oronte, quite impressive in his arias. Luca Tittoto did well as Melisso, with a voice that is not too noble but is handled nicely. Young soprano Erika Escribà as Oberto had a fresh, attractive voice. In the second cast, Anthony Gregory as Oronte was not convincing, and Johannes Weisser was rather a rough Melisso. Francesca Lombardi Mazzuli went unnoticed as Oberto.

 José M. Irurzun 


Copyright: Javier del Real

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