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Gripping Stuff

Handel's 'Ariodante' at English National Opera,
enjoyed by ROBERT HUGILL

 

David Alden's production of Handel's Ariodante at English National Opera [seen 1 June 2006] has always seemed to me to be one of the most successful stagings of baroque opera seria by a modernist opera director. Perhaps because Alden takes Handel's music and the stylised structure of opera seria seriously and uses it for his own purposes. Now the production is back at the Coliseum, revived by Alden and Ian Rutherford with a strong cast which included Alice Coote as Ariodante, Rebecca Evans as Ginevra, Sarah Tynan as Dalinda, Patricia Bardon as Polinesso, Paul Nilon as Lurcanio and Peter Rose as the King of Scotland.

Rebecca Evans as Ginevra in Handel's 'Ariodante'. Photo © 2006 English National Opera and Stephen Vaughan
Rebecca Evans as Ginevra in Handel's 'Ariodante'. Photo © 2006 English National Opera and Stephen Vaughan

Not everyone warms to Alden's production style but in Ian MacNeil's beautiful shabby 18th century designs and Wolfgang Göbel's dramatic lighting the show certainly looks good. Of course there are quirks. The Kingdom of Scotland would seem to be the kindgom of stray chairs, in fact both the Alden brothers shows at the Coliseum (Christopher Alden has just done the new Makropoulos Case) make a thing of strewing the stage with chairs, but at least here they are 18th century ones. And the amazing dancing waiters in Act 1 are an acquired taste. But their presence indicates another admirable thing about the production. ENO presents the opera complete (four hours running time including two intervals) with all of Handel's ballet music, which was written especially for the opera and integrated into the drama. Alden takes this very seriously and uses the dance episodes to further the drama rather than simply entertain.

A scene from Handel's 'Ariodante'. Photo © 2006 English National Opera and Stephen Vaughan
A scene from Handel's 'Ariodante'. Photo © 2006 English National Opera and Stephen Vaughan

 

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Copyright © 5 June 2006 Robert Hugill, London UK

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