Magnificent musical magic in Covent Garden’s production of Alcina

Alcina’s plot is absurdly convoluted, but director Richard Jones has risen to the challenge magnificently and put together a hugely entertaining production.

Earlier this year, I saw the same opera for the first time at Glyndebourne.

Two friends who had seen it there before me had told me that the singing was magnificent and the music sublime but they had no idea what was going on.

After watching it, I felt the same. The plot is about a group of travelers who have been lured to an island ruled by the sorceress Alcina, who has the unfortunate habit of falling in love and then getting tired of her conquests and turning them into wild animals.

Meanwhile, Alcina’s sister Morgana becomes very attracted to the newcomer Ricciardo, who is not Ricciardo at all, but her sister Bradamante in disguise.

Do you see what I mean that the plot is unfathomable?

I could tell you that Alcina fell in love with Bradamante’s husband, but I think I’ve told you enough about the plot.

Richard Jones not only does a fine job of making it clear what’s going on, he also adds some glorious directing touches to keep the audience engaged during long arias when the music is beautiful but not enough is happening to keep the room bubbling. Alcin magic potion. happily and hold our interest.

I especially enjoyed Jones’s collaboration with choreographer Sarah Fahie, introducing comedic elements of ensemble dancing at exactly the right moments to add visual delight to the musical feast.

With a fairytale forest design by Antony McDonald and lavish animal masks for cast members unlucky enough to fall under Alcina’s spell, it all made for a perfectly magical evening.

With wonderful Cuban-American soprano Lisette Oropesa displaying glorious voice control as Alcina, while British soprano Mary Bevan was equally wonderful as Morgana, it all added up to a thrilling performance.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all, however, was the singing and acting of the youngest member of the cast, the boy soprano, 12-year-old Malakai Bayoh.

Aside from his wonderful voice, Malakai showed considerable maturity in not being intimidated by an embarrassing incident when an audience member yelled insults while singing.

The Royal Opera House is to be commended for approaching the scoundrel and banning him from ROH for life.

Other than that, the entire opera was a thrilling experience and a real treat. At the end, there was a big round of applause for the entire cast and in particular for Malakai Bayoh.

I was also delighted when the conductor, Christian Curnin, came onstage, accompanied by the cellist and violinist whose virtuosic playing had added so much to our enjoyment.

  • Ticket office and information: roh.org.uk or 020 7304 4000 (various dates until November 26).

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