Tuesday 15 August 2006


I was catching up with my reading at the weekend and so was reading the latest newsletter from the London Handel Society. This included a potted biography of one of Handel's female friends. She attended on of the early rehearsals for Alcina and wrote the following to a friend:-

"Yesterday morning I went to hear the first rehearsal of the new opera Alcina and, whilst Mr Handel was playing his part, I could not help thinking him a necromancer in the midst of his own enchantments."

It set me thinking about productions of the opera. At ENO their production, by David McVicar, uses references to the theatre and to music; Alcina's enchantment is the magic of the theatre. When her magic fails, we see her sitting despondently at a harpsichord and the glorious setting of Act 1 is revealed as being nothing more than a stage set.

But I wonder whether you could go further, setting the opera in the London of Handel's day and dressing Alcina as a man in a full bottom wig, a Handel clone. Thus Alcina's enchantment of young men would have interesting resonances with the suggestions about Handel's own sexuality. I'm not quite sure how this scenario would quite play out, I'm no producer. Certainly the dressing of Alcina as a man would raise whole issues as to whether the young men Alcina enchants see him/her as a man or as a woman. But it certainly sounds an interesting area to speculate on.

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