With the figure of the sorceress Alcina, whose story is told in the sixth and seventh cantos of Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando furioso, Handel makes his own contribution to the long list of Alcina settings that began in Florence in 1625. Alcina enjoyed a tremendously successful premiere at London’s Covent Garden in 1735, and numbers among the most popular and frequently performed of George Frideric Handel’s operas.
Ruggiero has fallen under the spell of the sorceress Alcina, abandoned his military career for love of her and left his fiancée Bradamante. Alcina’s island is his refuge. But his fiancée, who still loves him and hopes to win him back, and Melisso, who needs him to win the impending war, are on his trail. These two are also caught up in Alcina’s labyrinth of love, and the twists and turns take their course. In this opera of charms and sorcery, Handel shows himself at the peak of his creative powers. In it, every stage of longing and hope, of flirtation and devotion, of pain and injury, of deceit and fear, of rebellion and despair is passed through.