Falling Under Her Spell

Is it love or just an illusion? Pittsburgh Opera continues its 2019-2020 season with Handel’s Baroque masterpiece, Alcina. The opera, from a libretto by A. Marchi adapted from Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, tells the story of Alcina, a sorceress who lives on an enchanted island with her sister, Morgana. Alcina uses her magical powers to trick men into falling in love with her but is easily bored with the men she seduces. Once boredom sets in, she turns the men into animals or inanimate objects. Ruggiero is her latest crush, but his fiancée, Bradamante, and her tutor, Melisso, arrive on the island to bring Ruggiero home. Who will win this epic battle of love? 

This production features the Resident Artists (and one alum of the program) in all the roles and is also directed by one of the Resident Artists. In addition, Chatham Baroque, Pittsburgh’s acclaimed early music ensemble, joins the musicians in the orchestra for Handel’s final operatic success. 

Explore more about Alcina through the CD, DVD and book recommendations on this list. I hope to see you at the opera!  


This recording features three powerhouse singers: Renée Fleming as Alcina, Susan Graham as Ruggiero and Natalie Dessay as Morgana. William Christie leads Les Arts Florissants, the renowned period-instrument ensemble.


Anja Harteros portrays Alcina and Vesselina Kasarova is Ruggiero in this production conducted by Marc Minkowski with Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble, a French period-instrument ensemble.


Catherine Naglestad sings Alcina and Alice Coote sings Ruggiero in this production from Staatsoper Stuttgart.

Handel's Operas, 1726-1741

Winton Dean’s book is a follow-up to Handel’s Operas, 1704-1726 and is the first in-depth study of Handel’s final 22 operas. Dean explores Alcina’s musical language in detail and discusses the title role as one of opera’s great tragic heroines. Alcina was Handel’s last operatic success.

Handel, rev. edition

Early music specialist Hogwood presents a thorough portrait of the composer. Hogwood’s afterword in this revised edition (first edition published in 1984) discusses the interest in scholarship and performances of Handel’s works, particularly his Italian operas and dramatic oratorios.

The Art of Handel's Operas

Meynell’s book focuses on Handel’s works for the stage. Alcina is discussed in the chapter “Growing Conflict.” The author labels the work among the best of Handel’s operas. His essay discusses several of the compositional techniques used by Handel in this work.

Essays on Handel and Italian Opera

Strohm examines the relationship between Handel’s operas and the earlier Italian operatic masterpieces. The author believes Handel built upon the early styles to create his unique works, which reflect both his respect for the Italian masters and his desire to use text and music to forge his own compositional voice.