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  • Writer's pictureFrances

Opera North - Alcina Review | The Lowry | Manchester

Alcina exposes the Lowry audience to the endlessly empty and haunting reality behind its unloved antihero.

Having acquired the power to enable people to see whatever she wishes upon them, Alcina (Sky Ingram) chooses to build her own reality on a deserted island that is brought to life with Opera North’s live orchestrations, contemporary costumes and beautiful lyricism.

Despite the island’s barren state, Alcina soon transforms the space, swiftly turning any man who washes ashore into a former lover before transforming him into a rock, tree or pet. Yet Alcina’s wonderful spin to weaponize her power is due to the pained reality of her situation, living the life of Medusa as a powerful but perilous woman. As a result, Alcina chooses to lash out her insecurities at the latest man to hit her shore.

In blows Bradamante (Mari Askvik), attempting to rescue her fiancé without being enchanted by Alcina’s rolling arias and joyful solos. As Bradamante and her lover Ruggiero (Patrick Terry) are tested by Alcina’s deceitful spell, the tension of the show is also built around a set that offers a feeling of disorientation and danger. With the reflective story backed by a projected screen of the forest and a few toying rounds of musical chairs being played on stage.

Alongside the casts animated vocals there is a startling stillness to the dimly lit set that chooses to portray Alcina’s island as a constantly sinister affair. Director Tim Albery does not build Alcina’s illusions onstage for the audience to oversee but instead envelops the Lowry space with a sense of scale in this hopelessly dark fairytale. However, George Frederick Handel’s 1735 portrayal of a powerful woman and her vulnerabilities are delivered through its charming tracks, of which Opera North’s powerful cast carry gracefully.

While Handel’s character driven narrative has been recrafted in a way that demystifies the opera, the light lyrical tones of its mythical tale are lost in sequences that are devoid of colour and a spirit of adventure. Nevertheless, the stars of the show still cast lyrical spells on their audience with the backing of the Opera North’s live orchestration. Ensuring that the small cast dramatically translate Alcina's magic and mystery through a focus on Handel’s lyrics and score.

Unlike Opera North’s Carmen and Rigoletto, this production is less of a reinterpretation of Alcina and rather a clear concert of the story’s premise and score. It is a production in which its devastatingly beautiful music and performances are able to shine above the show’s bounded and limited set.

Tickets are available via the Lowry link

Available to stream for six months with OperaVision


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