portrayal of characters in alcina

After 4 operas in 5 nights, I’m taking an easy day today camping at Vienna Biocenter Campus checking what’s happening in the rest of the world.

DtO poses a very cool question to my previous post, and since i’ve been thinking about the relationship between Bradamante and Ruggiero after the last performance, i thought i discuss a bit my view of this relationship, and also their relationships to Alcina.

When I first read the synopsis about a year ago, I thought how great the character Bradamante must be!  truly gender bending, strong-willed, independent, versatile, someone who knows what she wants and how to get it, someone i would love to be!  From what I’ve seen in the libretto back when i first listened to Alcina, it also seems she’s a very capable character who came to the island to succeed.  In term of casting, I think if for example, Frau K was casted as Bradamante and someone else as Ruggiero, we might have seen a different portrayal of Bradamante, closer to what I envision.

My observation from this Alcina production in Wien:
Bradamante seemed to be an uncertain character.  She is quite unsure how to get Ruggiero back.  Even when she got him (her) back, she’s still afraid of Alcina.  This can be seen in “2” in the last post when at the 2nd run of “non e amor ne gelosia”, Alcina climbed on the bed(?), Ruggiero, who appeared still under her spell, stood up en-garde with sword in hand. Bradamante, on the other hand, yielded her space and walked off the bed, moving progressively further away unsure what to do.  Soon Ruggiero fended off Alcina and took her hand, almost to assure her (s)he’s hers.
There’s still a bit of luyến tiếc, let me check english translation… hmm, not sure if it’s the right word, but “longing”… There’s still a bit of longing for Alcina in Ruggiero‘s voice and action as we see (s)he’s moving very slowly away and replying to Alcina not firmly but rather softly, almost in a justifying way before grabbing Bradamante‘s hand.  I don’t know if it’s Anja Harteros’ intention to portray Alcina as a likable character, or Kristina Hammarström’s intention to portray an uncertain Bradamante.  I’m also curious how the audience hear their relationships via radio since my view is definitely tainted by my vision :-).

On that point, I should mention the Ruggiero-Alcina relationship seems much more developed whereas Ruggiero-Bradamante seems almost a bit awkward at times.  This suggests Harteros-Kasarova ‘s relationship a more developed one than Kasarova-Hammarström’s.  It’s important because there are several sequences in the opera when one’s aria is immediately followed by the other’s.  The one I noticed that was very different dynamically between the 1st and 2nd performances was the pair “Vorrei vendicarmi” – “Mi lusinga il dolce affetto” .  First, Ruggiero was given the ring and saw for the first time who Alcina really is (a not so lovely goddess).  Then Bradamante came in, and Ruggiero still thought she was Bradamante‘s brother.  Bradamante then launched into this super fast aria “Vorrei..”, expressing her anger that her lover is so blinded by Alcina as to not recognize his (her) own love.  She then stormed out of the room leaving Ruggiero in a state of anguish singing his (her) heart-breaking “Mi lusinga…” — what am i to believe true or not true any more?

On the premiere night, “Vorrei” was sang beautifully and expressing so fully the rage and anguish in Bradamante, I could feel her shock and despair (when i say beautiful, i mean i feel the emotion).  As a result, Frau Kasarova followed it up with a beeeautiful heart-breaking “Mi lusinga”.  You could feel in her voice her fear of losing Bradamante but more importantly her absolute confusion for not knowing anymore what to believe around her.  On the 2nd night, somehow, “Vorrei” was sang fast, full of coloratura, but didn’t manage the same emotion.  The tension then wasn’t built, and as a result, “Mi lusinga” was very mild in comparison.  If i hadn’t seen the 1st performance, it would have left me even a bit confused why she’s singing about confusion.  It’s so amazing to feel this difference from night to night, like 2 people swinging a pendulum:  one hitting it ever-so-slightly at the wrong time would render the whole thing out of phase.

Even the aria “Sta nell’ Ircana” was also somehow closer to a routine than a passionate version full of authority Frau Kasarova delivered on opening night.  So, i think it’s great I can see it again on even a third night to compare and contrast :-).  what luxury.  If you notice, i haven’t talked at all about “Verdi prati”.  I’m still a bit unsure how it fits in to the opera.  It comes right after intermission, so somehow the emotion doesn’t quite flow in the music yet.  at least for me that is.  I’m still hoping i’ll get it by the 3rd time :-).

This is now truly a rambling post, so let’s talk a little bit about Alcina-Ruggiero arias, actually more like listening to Alcina‘s arias

From the first moment (while still caresing Ruggiero), i was forever bathing in Ms Harteros’ luscious voice (her renditions live are both times MUCH better than this youtube version)

but it was her rendition of “si, son quella” that left me paralyzed.  here you’ll just have to cope with Arleen Auger’s version:

With music like this, how can one leave???  I have a feeling i’m somewhat under Alcina‘s spell here in Wien…

Sì, son quella,
non più bella,
non più cara
agli occhi tuoi;
ma se amar
tu non mi vuoi,
infedel, deh! non mi odiar.

Yes, I am still true,
though no longer beautiful,
no longer dear
in your sight.
But if you can
no longer love me,
faithless (wo)man, oh, do not hate me!


About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

2 Responses to portrayal of characters in alcina

  1. bo`n says:

    residual longing/yearning??

  2. Yes, Alcina has most fireworks. I think that she must be played as an attractive character, somebody who will seduce the audience, not only Ruggiero and her other lovers/victims. That’s the greatness of this libretto: we feel for Alcina, Ruggiero and Bradamante.

    So in Vienna they have a more submissive, disoriented Bradamante? Interesting… And on the images you posted she looks younger than either B or A, and dressed more girlishly.

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