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It’s sad that one of Vivaldi’s finest operas has been so diminished here by Pierre Audi’s monochrome, miserablist stage direction. Costumes, sets and lighting are restricted to shades of grey and Alcina’s enchanted isle is represented by a few outsize chairs and tables or, in Act 3, a grimy brick wall. Worse, Audi keeps most of the singers onstage (despite the libretto) and has them enact arch tableaux during the arias—a ploy that, if initially intriguing, has become a pointless distraction by Act 3, as the cast stagger around like a zombie mime troupe. The original opera ends happily, with Orlando’s reason restored; here, still demented, he skips a ‘dance of death’ in front of Alcina’s corpse! Fortunately, the principal singers (Lemieux, Larmore, Cangemi, Jaroussky), all excellent, recorded the opera on CD with Spinosi in 2004, so we can enjoy Vivaldi’s fabulous music without having to endure a staging that, like Orlando, becomes increasingly unhinged.

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing