By James V. Ruocco
In 17th century Europe, Italian baroque composer and singer Francesca Caccini was one of a few women whose orchestral compositions were published during her tenure at the Medici Court in Florence.
Her only publication for the stage - "La liberazione di Ruggiero dalla'isola d' Alcina" - an opera, adapted from Ludovico Ariosto's epic poem "Orlando furioso," will be presented November 5 and 7, 2021 by Connecticut Lyric Opera in association with its partner, the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra.
Described as a humorous musical saga of daring rescue, adventure and mysticism, the opera - consisting of four individual scenes - was first performed on February 3, 1625 at the Villa di Poggio Imperiale in Florence. Written in the Florentine moderno/recitavito style of Claudio Mondeverdi and Jacopo Peri, it was originally conceived for six sopranos, two altos, seven tenors, one bass and a trio of recorders.
Following the myths of the knight Ruggiero, the opera is set in and around the island of Alcina. As the production opens, Ruggiero finds himself captured by the sorceress Alcina who has placed him under her spell. Hypnotized to believe that she is young and beautiful and not the ancient sorceress she really is, Ruggiero learns of his future by Melissa, another enchantress who sets out to rescue him from his sealed fate which includes a marriage to his betrothed Bradamante.
But in order for this to happen, she assumes the guise of Atlas, the ancient sorcerer who has raised him, She also releases Alcina's former lovers from enchantments - they have been imprisoned on the island as rocks and trees - and returns them to life in human form.
"La liberazione di Ruggiero dalla'isola d' Alcina" will be conducted by Adrian Sylveen, Artistic Director of Connecticut Lyric Opera and the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra. The production will be staged by Alan Mann, Artistic Director of Opera Theater of Connecticut.
As envisioned by Caccini, it was one of the first works to shift the narrative from classical subject matter to one drawn from a Renaissance epic. Following its premiere, it is also believed to have been the first Italian opera to be performed outside of Italy.
Headlining the Connecticut Lyric Opera cast of "La liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d' Alcina" are Rebecca Batista de Almedia (Alcina), Madison Marie McIntosh (Melissa), Daniel Kamalic (Ruggiero), Maria Margiolakou (First Lady), Heather O'Connor (Second Lady), Allison Waggener (Third Lady), Samuel Bowen (Nettuno), Rongjun Li (First Tenor) and Sung Shi (Second Tenor).
Performances are 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 5 at the Trinity-On-Main-Arts Center (69 Main St., New Britain, CT) and 2 p.m. November 7 at the Wadsworth Antheneum Museum of Art (600 Main St., Hartford, CT). The Wadsworth performance is being presented in conjunction with the exhibition "By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy" from 1500-1800.
The suggested ticket price (@www.thevirtuosi.ticketleap.com) at both locations is $35.