Betrayal, Heartbreak, and the Search for the Truth: Händel’s “Alcina”

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The Aaron Copland School of Music’s (ACSM) upcoming performance of Georg Friedrich Händel’s “Alcina” is sure to enchant audiences with the saga of the otherworldly witch, Alcina, as she domineers the affairs that befall her island with her cabbalistic sorcery.

Filled with ornate and extravagant music, this baroque era opera has embodied many different interpretations. From Glyndebourne’s flashy Vegas-esque portrayal, to Opéra de Lausanne’s dark, dystopian, and somewhat controversial vision, this opera is no stranger to being reimagined by the minds of creative directors alike. 

ACSM’s reinterpretation of the 18th century opera takes place in Alcina’s underground nightclub with the stage being lit mostly by disco and black light. Director Alexander Paul Sheerin conceptualizes a cast in all white, except for Alcina, who will instead be adorned in red.

“Traditionally, Händel operas lasted in excess of 3 hours and were often intended to be performed for royalty and the upper class,” Sheerin said. “These audiences would often view the operas as background music, and would maybe sit and watch if their favorite singer was performing an aria, but would then return to eat dinner, or partake in other activities. So with this in mind, I find directing Händel an exciting challenge.”

Händel creates such involved emotional arcs for each of the characters that he writes, and this is surely apparent in his construction of the titular role, Alcina. Senior vocal performance major, Celina Randazzo, provides us with insight on how she prepares to embody the unhinged sorceress, saying: 

“I’ve always gotten deep into character analysis with my roles. I read through the entire opera and try to find moments that define my character,” Randazzo said. “If he writes ‘frustratedly,’ there is always another emotion attached to it. Sometimes it’s sadness, jealousy, or anger.”

While Alcina’s ultimate goal is to maintain control over her island, she cycles through a plethora of sentiments including supremacy, distress, and ultimately succumbing to her despairing fate as she realizes she’s lost her powers. 

Randazzo charmingly elaborates on these intense emotions, as she discusses the content of her stirring aria “Ah, mio cor.” She divulges that she finds music, “Very therapeutic, so getting to sing and wail about losing someone you will always love, fully knowing they will never come back, is so heartbreaking.” It is ‘the beautiful simplicity of allowing the emotions to spew out’ that makes this aria especially gratifying for her to perform. 

This ostentatious opera is filled with betrayal, heartbreak, and deception, as we follow the chronicles of those who travel to Alcina’s island in search of love, reunification, and the truth. Watch this dramatic tale unfold on November 17th and 18th at 7:30 pm in the LeFrak Concert Hall, and discover whether the enchantress Alcina is able to continue her reign, or if instead the pursuit of the truth will set those under her spell free.

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