By Maggie Doherty, Staff Writer
Hofstra Opera Theatre presented George Frideric Handel's "Alcina" this past weekend, Friday Jan. 27 through Sunday, Jan. 29 in Adams Playhouse. As is common practice for this division of the music department, the show was divided into A cast and B cast – most likely to involve as many vocal performance students as possible.
For the most part, HOT's productions (including last year's "Don Giovanni" and 2010's "Die Flaudermaus") achieve the purpose of introducing the Hofstra community to the rare and sophisticated art form of opera, (with the help of some outstanding classical voices) and "Alcina" is no exception. With artistic direction by Isabel Milenski, musical direction by David Ramael and an exceptional orchestra pit, the three-act piece flows beautifully, connecting timeless themes to a visual and musical display that resonated with the ancient and the classical, with a special ingredient of androgyny.
Set upon Alcina's magical island, Ruggiero (Natalie Fabian/Allison Lindsay) is a soldier that wanders into the seductive grasp of Alcina (Rachel Blaustein/Kelly Anderson) and her mystical, chaotic world. His betrothed, Bradamante (Chelsea Laggan/Melody Hall) disguises herself as her brother and takes along her sidekick Melisso (Alexander Shirling/Matt Georgetti) to the island to win him back and return to the organized world. Upon their arrival, Alcina's sister Morgana (Kate Davis/Alexis Minogue) falls in love with Bradamante.
Yes, you read that right: A girl dressed as a dude played by a girl is trying to win back a dude being played by a girl, while a girl played by a girl falls in love with said girl dressed as a dude played by a guy. This is where suspension of belief kicks in, which is relatively easy to do given the premise of the sorceress Alcina and her magical powers.
A chaotic love situation ensues, including the one obvious hetero connection between Ortone (Christohper Remkus/Derek Bado) and Morgana, whose relationship is tainted by superficial jealousy, yet prevails – only to meet a tragic conclusion. In other words, opera at its dramatic finest.
The voices in both casts carry the show, especially Blaustein, Anderson, Davis and Minogue, whose soprano leads are all outstanding. The chorus numbers are impressive and showcase the musicality of the group, as well as the mindful choreography of Sarah Seely to portray classical partner dancing.
It's refreshing to see the Hofstra music department presenting an opera piece with so much finesse and attention to detail. The entire piece was performed in classical Italian, with subtitles to aid the audience with the plot. That is not an easy feat, folks. Although it's difficult to convincingly acting through the form of constant singing, the cast succeeds in presenting the everlasting themes of nature versus the developed world, chaos versus power, and lust versus love.