Handel’s Ariodante, like so many operas before it, weaves a tale of obsession, deception, heartbreak and redemption. Director Richard Jones updates this tale in both time and place, adding to it an empowering ending sure to satisfy.
The plot of Ariodante is simple: Ariodante and Ginevra are in love and set to be married. Their courtship is thwarted and nearly destroyed by a jealous suitor, Polinesso, who leads everyone to believe that Ginevra has been carrying on an affair with him, leaving her to ruin. It’s a society (like others of today), where (a woman’s) morals are held to the highest expectations and any step outside these arbitrary lines can lead to banishment, even death.
I’ve complained before of directors veering away from the period an operas original setting, but Jones’ decision to place Ariodante in a modern Scottish coastal town, with a sparse, but effective set, works without distracting or detracting from Handel’s original.
Like all Handel opera’s, Ariodante is filled with beautiful music. Jane Archibald as Ginevra handles her notes and her character’s emotions with aplomb and consummate ease. The ornamentation of this soprano’s notes never waivers, keeping you glued to the edge of your seat. Ambur Braid’s Dalinda, Ginevra’s love-sick handmaid, sings with a clarity of voice and an emotional fragility that hits you to the core.
In truth, all the singers in this production of Ariodante express very real emotions throughout, never coming across as contrived. Varduhl Abrahamyan plays the tattooed, closet-biker-villain Polinesso, a “preacher” who has the small and devout community fooled. Alice Coote as the seemingly cuckolded Ariodante, delivers all of her lines expertly. Each character here is believable, their notes and attitudes heartfelt. This is a sad opera, but there is a beauty in the melancholy.
At over three hours run time, this could be a sleeper for less seasoned opera goers, but the stellar performances from all on stage, make this opera a hit, not to be missed.
Ariodante plays now through November 4 at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto For tickets or more information please visit: coc.ca