To an initiate the plot of Handel’s opera Alicina can be quite baffling, with its cross currents of love, betrayal and rejection between multiple protagonists.

But with Tim Albery’s Opera North production, staged at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, one could set aside the complexities and get simply get lost in the spellbinding music and sterling singing.

The action centres on what seems at first glance to be a paradise island. The idyll is all an illusion. Its landscape features rocks and animals that are the scorned lovers of the enchantress Alcina, who reigns over the island.

The Northern Echo: Máire Flavin as Alcina and Mari Askvik as Bradamante Photo : James GlossopMáire Flavin as Alcina and Mari Askvik as Bradamante Photo : James Glossop

Her latest conquest is the handsome knight Ruggiero captive, who she is keeping captive. Enter Ruggiero’s betrothed Bradamenta, disguised as her brother, setting out with her guardian Melissa to rescue him.

In addition Alcina’s sister and fellow enchantress Morgana falls for Bradamante, even though she herself is already betrothed to Oronte, Alcina’s loyal lieutenant. You get the idea.

Taking the eponymous role was Maire Flavin, who was at turns seductive and scary as she conveyed her developing character convincingly throughout, to her final thrilling aria.

The Northern Echo:

Norwegian mezzo-soprano Mari Askvik, was a powerful Bradamente. Among her many highlights were her rendition of Mi restano le lagrime, declaring she will not leave until Alcina’s enchantments are broken.

Patrick Terry was a passionate ball of energy as Ruggerio. His silky counter tenor was delivered with exquisite control; the measured tones of his Verdi prati laden were a real treat. 

Fflur Wyn shone as Morgana, with a thrilling take on her aria Tornami a vagheggiar.

The Northern Echo:

Bradamante’s protector Melissa was played brilliantly by Claire Pascoe, while Nick Pritchard, as Oronto, amusingly stripped to his boxers, vest and one sock as he sang a dexterous Un momento di contneto.

This was vaunted as Opera North’s first sustainable production. The set featured a lighting rig, second hand easy chairs, pre-loved costumes and a bear rug, which was donned in one comedic moment by Alcina.

The Northern Echo:

Ian Galloway’s video backdrop depicted a dream palm lined island which then plunged into a dark forboding jungle, reflecting the action on stage

The contrasts and pacing of Handel's lavish score were masterfully directed from the harpsichord by Laurence Cummings.

Alcina has finished its run, but can be viewed by clicking here

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