It was about time for the Athenian audience to enjoy a baroque opera, since the Greek National Opera considers anathema anything before 1800, subsisting on a constant Verdian diet with sprinkles of Modern operas.
George Petrou is a well established figure in the baroque milieu, being recently appointed as Artistic Director of the Handel Goettingen Festival, a well deserved honor. It was emblematic his choice of one of Handel’s Masterpieces, “Alcina” in a new production directed and conducted by him, at the open air Herodus Atticus Theater, a vey becoming set for the opera.
A beautiful garden was set onstage with real trees, which represented Alcina’s enchanted Garden costumes and set by Georgina Germanou, lighting sets by Stella Kaltsou.
At last our eyes feasted on beautiful baroque costumes , a welcome change from the hideous modern costumes seen in many foreign productions, mixed with some modern security guards costumes for the soldiers of Ruggiero. It was a well thought and beautiful classic production which was enhanced by the Ancient Theater. I loved the masks of the transformed followers of Alcina which were in animal form.
The main role of Alcina was performed in an exemplary way by Myrto Papatanasiou one of the most acclaimed singer of the role internationally, having sung the role in many European Opera Houses. Her performance was subtle with beautiful top notes, wonderful lyric passages, and full of dramatic flair especially in her main aria “Oh mio cor” which she sung with exemplary precision, lyricism, and dramatic overtones, and was undoubtedly the highlight of the evening bringing tears to our eyes.
Mary Elen Nesi needs no introduction, she is a dedicated baroque singer having sung all over the world in all the important venues. Her Ruggiero was heroic, dramatic and sensitive at the same time. She sung the role with great feeling for the vocal line and nuances of the music revealing her innate musicianship. This is the result of years of dedication to baroque music combined with hard work, and knowledge of the period’s style. The voice has acquired a mellow maturity and velvety sound, which allows the singer to express an array of contrasting feelings.
I enjoyed Myrsini Margariti’s performance of the role of Morgana. Her voice is clear, subtle, a wonderful lyric soprano. She sung her aria “Credete al mio dolore” with feeling and passion, supported by the wonderful playing of the soloists of the Orchestra. A wonderful expressive singing of a difficult aria.
Benedetta Mazuccato as Bradamante, tackled her two main arias , some of the most technically demanding Haendel ever wrote, with dramatic flair and swift passages, with technical ability in the coloratura sections. A voice to look out for.
It was a pity that we did not enjoy the wonderful singing of Petros Magoulas (one of the most accomplished baroque basses) in the role of Melisso, since he was unfortunately ill to sing, but acted onstage with the voice of Sotiris Triantis in the orchestra pit, who possesses a strong wonderful voice, singing with flair and dramatic impact. It is to their credit the way they synchronized acting and voice, one of the most difficult feats that can happen in a singer’s career.
The other smaller roles were sung by Yiannis Kalyvas (Oronte) and Theodora Baka ( Oberto) both excellent in their respective roles.
Georges Petrou lead his Orchestra Armonia Atenea, with force, and fast tempi, being sensitive to the nuances of the score , aided at various arias by the accomplished playing of the various supporting solo playing instruments, although at the beginning of the evening it took some effort from the instruments to come together, something which I attribute to the poor acoustics of the Theatre, although there was amplification.
The Armonia Atenea Chorus gave their best, as well as the four dancers followers of Alcina (Mimi Andonaki, Hristina Ellinodelli, , Elena Kondogoni, Maria Konstantaki).
Lets hope to see again this production at a close Theater where the sensitive balance required by the instruments is better achieved.
Photos: article photos: A.Spanides