Following the concert performance of Cavalli’s Xerse on 18 October 2015, Emmanuelle Haïm will take you to an enchanted realm with Le Concert d’Astrée. The portrayal of the supernatural and the fantastic (“merveilleux”) was originally a province of French opera, which saw it as a way of establishing its own identity distinct from “tragédie classique” and “comédie”. But George Frideric Handel found the world of magic inspirational, too. His operas Alcina and Orlando are based on Ariosto’s Orlando furioso. The sorceress Alcina turns her ex-lovers into animals on her island, but her beloved Ruggiero manages to escape from her spell with the help of his fiancée and destroys Alcina’s magical kingdom. The theme of the “abandoned sorceress” is also found in Rinaldo, which is based on Gerusalemme liberata by Torquato Tasso: the sorceress Armida falls in love with an enemy, the crusader Rinaldo, who, with the assistance of a magician, does not waver from his cause and defeats the Saracens. Sorcery, elves and spirits also play a central role in Henry Purcell’s semioperas The Fairy-Queen (1692, based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and King Arthur (1691) with a text by John Dryden: King Arthur succeeds in freeing his fiancée from the clutches of the Saxon King Oswald of Kent. Merlin, the magician, is on Arthur’s side, while Oswald is also aided by a magician and two spirits. May you too be enchanted!