Music of the Baroque | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Music of the Baroque


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The numerous plot machinations in Handel's opera Alcina, loosely derived from Ariosto's epic verse Orlando furioso, are driven by search and revenge. The eponymous heroine is a seductive, evil sorceress with a penchant for turning humans into beasts who falls in love with the handsome Ruggiero. The maiden Bradimante, disguises herself as a man and goes off to look for her beloved Ruggero, only to be imprisoned on Alcina's enchanted isle, and Morgana, the sorceress's sister, becomes infatuated with the armored Bradimante. Meanwhile a boy searches for his father, whom Alcina has transformed into a lion. All forces converge to shatter Alcina's magical powers in this parable about the triumph of reason over impetuous emotions. London audiences reveled in Alcina at its premiere in Covent Garden in April of 1735, for obvious reasons: the need to give vent to a wide range of contrasting emotions--and the availability of astonishing castrati voices--caused Handel to craft some of his most florid and psychologically penetrating arias and duets; the exotic locals provided an occasion for balletic pageantry; and the character of Alcina, whose downfall is due to her tragic desire to experience love, is riveting. In this concert presentation by Music of the Baroque, our city's finest Handelian ensemble, veteran soprano Linda Mabbs sings the title role. Mezzo-sopranos Donna Bruno and Karen Brunssen are Ruggiero and Bradimante, respectively. Among the supporting players are MOB regulars Patrice Michaels Bedi and William Watson. Conducting his ususal stress on bel canto is Thomas Wikman. Sunday, 8 PM, Grace Lutheran Church, 7300 W. Division, River Forest; Monday 8 PM, First United Methodist Church, 1630 Hinman, Evanston; Thursday, 8 PM, Saint Paul's United Church of Christ, 655 W. Fullerton; and next Sunday, October 31, 3 PM, United Church of Hyde Park, 1448 E. 53rd St.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lisa Kohler.

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