Ariodante: Premiere of a Baroque Opera Hit – II.Part

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The new production

With the new State Opera production after Alcina – Ariodante has never been played in the history of the Vienna State Opera – a second Händel opera is added to the repertoire of the opera house. In the première on 24 February, William Christie will début as conductor: Of course, it is not necessary to introduce the American-born musician to the opera and concert audience, his decades-long international career has taken him and his specialist ensemble, Les Arts Florissants, around the world. And because the one does not go without the other, this old music ensemble is also a guest at Haus am Ring. After the Les Musiciens du Louvre under Marc Minkowski or the Freibourg baroque orchestra under Ivor Bolton, now another, well-informed ensemble radiates the magic of so-called early music.

The director of the new production is practically an old acquaintance. It is David McVicar, or more precisely: Sir David McVicar. He has already staged three production at the Vienna Opera, which, musically-spoken, significantly differ from one another: Tristan and Isolde by Wagner, Adriana Lecouvreur by Cilèas and Falstaff by Verdi (a production, recently staged in China). And those who know McVicar’s work, also know the atmospheric precision-work, with which the British director approaches the stage. Few things are more foreign to him than a point of view, in which a concept – without a detailed view of the musical texture – is drawn over his work or in which staging elements are simply draped around a happening. Remember his Falstaff work, in which, in cooperation with his outfitter, he provoked the aesthetics of historically matching paintings, or the final in Tristan, where costume, depicted nature, music and movement merge into a unity. Or Adriana Lecouvreur, in which McVicar brought new, colourful and vibrant life the French theatre of the 18th century.

This time, the two ensemble singers Chen Reiss and Hila Fahima stage the two very different female characters. Reiss, who was witnessed at Haus am Ring not only in many roles between Janácek and Strauss, but also as a baroque singer as Morgana in Alcina by Händel, will be heard as unlucky princess Ginevra. “Of all characters, seen on this opera evening, she is the real victim”, says Reiss. Since not only the misfortune of the alleged death of her lover hits her, but also the fact, that she is repudiated by her father, betrayed by her court lady and all involved turn against her, Reiss outlines the tragic of the character.

Although not her direct enemy, Dalinda, represented by Hila Fahima, is at least her fatal bad luck. Soprano Dalina explains that she is not fundamentally evil as such, but falls under the spell of the dusky Polinesso. Due to the amorous delusion, she almost participates in the deadly intrigue against Ginevra. “To her, Polinesso is attractive – and she does not realise, that he does not have the same emotions for her, but only uses her.”

The reason, why the royal father, who initially had a very good and close relationship with his daughter Ginevra, repudiates her so brusquely and even wants to have her executed, is given by Bassist Wilhelm Schwinghammer in the inner conflict of the character. “He is a father, but also the king and thus torn between his duty and his family. The ruler is indeed the first state representative and thus has to ensure law and order – even when it concerns his daughter.” However, the father does not have a bad character, says Schwinghammer. “He is at odds with himself and repudiating his daughter is tough for him. But he cannot escape his duty!” Wilhelm Schwinghammer will make his début on the première evening at Haus am Ring – just like Sarah Connolly, performer of Ariodante and counter tenor Christophe Dumaux (Polinesso). A night full of innovations for the State Opera audience: Head off to the journey of discover medieval Scotland!


Lovers Ginevra and Ariodante are in the centre of the plot. She is the daughter of the Scottish king, who is a respected vassal. Soon the wedding is to be celebrated – and, being respected by the king, Ariodante’s way to the throne is open. However, their perfect love and happiness is threatened by an intrigue: Polinesso, Duke of Albany, not only envies Ariodante for his fortune, but also strives to become the successor of the Scottish king himself. He thus concocts a plan to make Dalinda, Ginevra’s court lady, amorously submissive to him. At his behest, she dresses up as Ginevra and, all love-struck, she admits Polinesso. Ariodante, who learns about this act, initiated by Polinesso, believes that his bride is unfaithful, is desperate, wants to commit suicide and runs off. Ginevra, whom all assume guilty, is also desperate: On the one hand she lost Ariodante, on the other, she is repudiated by her father and is to be executed. Now Polinesso, who plays double games, agrees to fight Lurcanio, brother of presumably dead Ariodante, to restore Ginevra’s honour. Polinesso falls. Then an unknown, masked knight steps up to fight for Ginevra’s honour: it is Ariodante, who has learned the truth from regretful Dalinda. However, before the fight starts, Ariodante unmasks himself and clarifies the treachery. At last: Ariodante and Ginevra are reunited and Dalinda and Lurcanio join as a couple.

Source: Oliver Lang, Prolog Februar 2018, Nr 216

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