ALCINA New Production
20 June 2012
GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K.* CORRAL* Oper Köln
© Sam H. Shirakawa
|More than a meal...|
Musikalische Leitung Peter Neumann
Inszenierung Ingo Kerkhof
Bühne Anne Neuser
Kostüme Stephan von Wedel
Dramaturgie Tanja Fasching
Licht Nicol Hungsberg
Alcina Claudia Rohrbach
Ruggiero Franziska Gottwald
Morgana Anna Palimina
Bradamante Katrin Wundsam
Oronte John Heuzenroeder
Melisso Wolf Matthias Friedrich
Oberto Adriana Bastidas Gamboa
Orchester Gürzenich-Orchester Köln
Okay, I admit it. I've never been able to follow the plot of Handel’s Alcina, and trying to summarize it in 50 words or less hasn't been made any easier by a monumental distraction now seizing the whole world, except the United States: the European Soccer Championship Games.
Anyway, here goes... A young woman named Bradamante, who dresses up as her own brother Ricciardo, goes looking for her missing intended, the knight Ruggiero. She/he lands on an enchanted island ruled by the sorceress Alcina, who has benighted Ruggiero and taken him for her latest lover -- the operative word being ‘latest.’ Seems that Alcina discards stale squeezes, by turning them into animals, trees and waterways, and Ruggero could also suffer the same fate. Can Bradamante destroy Alcina’s power and get back her/his man? [86 words, and it doesn't begin to tackle the by-plots. e.g. Alcina's sister Morgana falls for Bradamente/Ricciardo. Oops...]
Handel (using a text by Antonio Fanzaglia based on Ludovico Ariosto’s "Orlando furioso") portrays Alcina as a lonely, isolated creature, who gains understanding of true love only after she renounces her hold on Ruggiero. Don’t try following the gnarled vicissitudes that bring Alcina to her breakthrough, because you’d be missing the point -- at least the point I took from Ingo Kerkhof’s new production for Cologne Opera at the Palladium, one of its temporary, smaller venues, while the opera house undergoes a three-year renovation program. A blessing because the main house is too cavernous to host a work of Alcina’s proportions.
Kerkhof places the action on a dark, sparsely furnished platform whose set changes are mostly indicated by Nicol Hungsberg’s bleak lighting shifts. Stephan von Wedel’s costumes are present-day and gray. Such paucity of visual color drew me to the bleak suffering all the characters undergo and ultimately led me to a pair of motley conclusions: a> Alcina is about the powerlessness that the power of love predicates and b> it’s about the singing, stupid!
|Claudia Rohrbach, Franziska Gottwald|
Peter Neumann kept the musical proceedings from slagging with a number of judicious cuts, including most of the dance music. Instead, the dancing emerged from the energy of the Gürzenich Orchestra -- absent an occasional spare entrance. The band was pleasantly supplemented by unusual instruments such as a welsh harp and a theorbo, which double intermittently with the pianofortes when they’re not playing individually.
|Gunfight at the O.K.* Corral: Uwe Eric Laufenberg / Georg Quander |
Now that Laufenberg is at liberty, three productions (Le Nozze di Figaro, Così fan tutte, Parsifal) he was to produce will be reassigned or dropped. On top of that, Laufenberg, who is also an actor of some note, was set to appear in his own production of My Fair Lady. While he offered to fulfill the engagement, the offer was turned down.
At the moment, Quander appears to have had the final word, although the courts ultimately could favor Laufenberg in some way. But Quander's impressive background in broadcasting has surely qualified him to engage in political battles of quasi-Vatican proportions. And prevail.
Who is the big loser in this teutonic vision of street theater? The same loser in any culture: the audience.