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Longborough Festival Opera, Longborough

As is now traditional, the Longborough Opera Festival is ending its current season at its home base with a production dedicated to giving young singers a platform to strut their stuff. This year the production of Alcina is the finale of a three-year Handel project.

As before in this strand of their work at Longborough, the interesting, small-scale production is conceived and developed by director Jenny Miller. The concept is captivating from the opening moments, with a small band of 12 being integrated visually and suggesting they are among the people that the sorceress has turned into animals on her enchanted, magical island. Once again, Jeremy Silver conducts from the harpsichord with a real sense of baroque style and with truly idiomatic grace. The platform on the stage allows the action to be centred at times and to suggest the wanderings away from the centre that are part of the story; and every singer works diligently and convincingly in a well-rehearsed and completely committed ensemble.

It is almost invidious not to mention every single name of both the singers and the musicians. The story comes across with real clarity (though occasional lapses in the translation) and as the opera progresses we move more and more deeply into the psyches of each individual and come to understand their inner turmoil and drives. Handel’s music evokes a real sense of compassion for all the characters, including that troubled witch, Alcina, played arrestingly by Julia Sitkovetsky. One is reminded by her singing why this is such a star making role!  I was completely won over by the Ruggiero of Hanna-Lisa Kirchin, the Morgana of Lucy Hall and the Bradamante of Anna Harvey. The youth of these singers is a huge asset in this story – it somehow makes it more convincing and the stage movement has a fresh athleticism that enhances the tale. Rosie Lomas was a sweet and delightful-voiced Oberto; Matthew Durkan made a good impression as Melisso and Christopher Diffey was sonorous and completely captivating as a very handsome Oronte. With the male chorus handled by William Smith and James Atkinson, this was a cast and an approach that did real justice to Handel’s operatic vision both dramatically and musically. The approach is small scale; but the impact was strong.

There is a further performance of this production in London on Thursday, 4 August, at the Greenwood Theatre of King’s College. If you like Handel operas and have the opportunity, you should go along.


  • Opera
  • Music and Libretto: George Frideric Handel
  • Director: Jenny Miller
  • Conductor: Jeremy Silver
  • Longborough Festival Opera, Longborough
  • 30 July – 2 August 2016
  • Review by Mel Cooper
  • 2 August 2016

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Canadian-born Mel Cooper first came to the UK to study English Literature at Oxford University and stayed. He was captivated by the culture and history of Britain, which he found to be a welcoming and tolerant country. After working in highly illustrated, non-fiction publishing for over a decade, he founded and edited the magazine Opera Now. Since then he has worked as a consultant to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, a broadcaster on British Satellite Broadcasting, a maker of audio shows and arts critic for several airlines, and as one of the team that started Britain’s first commercial classical music radio station, Classic FM, on which he was both a classical music DJ and creator and presenter of shows like Classic America and Authentic Performance. Throughout this period, he also lectured in music and literature in London and Oxford and published short stories in Canada. After working with the Genesis Foundation on helping to fund arts projects, he continues to write, review and lecture on music and literature. His first novel has just been published as an e-book. The title is City of Dreams. It is the first volume of a projected saga called The Dream Bearers. You can find the Kindle version of the book on Amazon.

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