The Norman Transcript

N-town stories

February 14, 2014

OU’s opera delivers psychological drama

NORMAN — Psychological drama and opera go hand-in-hand in the University of Oklahoma School of Music’s upcoming production of “Alcina.”

Artistic director and conductor Jonathan Shames said the G.F. Handel Italian opera — a sci-fi thriller of sorts —centers on Alcina, an enchantress on an island. Alcina casts spells over lovers on her island — transforming them into trees, rocks or animals — and convincing them the arid island is a lush, green destination.

While the production could easily involve elaborate costuming and sets, Shames said OU’s version will provide an intimate theater experience for audience members with minimal set and modern dress.

“You could really do a performance of this — even a movie of this — where there’s real transformation. You see the tree become a person, you see this become that, but we’re not doing that,” he said. “We’re doing more — this is the psychological grip that things can have. So there are challenges in that. The actors are going to have to in part imagine they are doing that but not do it.”

During the story, Ruggiero becomes enthralled with Alcina, forgetting about his fiancée, Bradamente. Shames said Bradamente continuously attempts to break the enchantment Alcina has over Ruggiero. In the end, the spell is broken.

“Everyone’s learning to face reality,” Shames said. “Even when Ruggiero finally faces reality at the end, I can’t say he’s completely happy.”

Shames said those who can relate to being held captive by an emotion like love or grief — feeling trapped by a memory and unable to move forward in life — will enjoy the story.

The opera’s themes and plot, combined with music performed by a small chamber orchestra, is simply captivating, Shames said.

“You wouldn’t believe how you feel the tension between the characters,” he said. “It was just the way they wrote.”

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