Skip to main content
Opera Excerpts

Handel’s Alcina – excerpts

By September 1, 2019March 17th, 2023No Comments

I haven’t dipped my toe into Baroque Opera.  It is genre unto itself, as anyone who has seen Les arts florissants can attest to.  There is university in the city in which I live that is doing Handel’s Alcina, and I thought why not a little Baroque for a change.  So here are several arias from Alcina.  The translations are not precise.  The Italian is just too old for precision, but you will get the idea.

Di’, cor mio, quanto t’amai,
mostra il bosco, il fonte, il rio,
dove tacqui e sospirai,
pria di chiederti mercé.

Dove fisso ne’ miei rai,
sospirando, al sospir mio,
mi dicesti con un sguardo:
peno, ed ardo al par di te, ecc.
Di’, cor mio, ecc.

Tell them, dear heart, how much I loved you,
Show them the grove, the spring, the brook,
Where I sighed in silence
Before asking for your pity.

Where, gazing into my eyes,
Your sighs answering mine,
You told me with a look:
I suffer, I burn like you.

Tornami a vagheggiar,
te solo vuol amar
quest’anima fedel,
caro mio bene.

Già ti donai il mio cor;
fido sarà il mio amor;
mai ti sarò crudel,
cara mia speme.
Tornami a vagheggiar. ecc.

Return to me to languish,
Only you it wants to love
this faithful heart,
My dear, my good one, my dear!

Already I gave you my heart :
I trust you will be my love;
but you will be too cruel,
my dear hope.

Non è amor, né gelosia,
è pietà,…

Che ascose frodi!

… e desio, che lieta godi.

Che fallaci infidi accenti!

ALCINA Non t’offendo, …

RUGGIERO Indegna, taci!

ALCINA … non t’inganno!

BRADAMANTE Iniqua, menti!

ALCINA Cruda donna! rio tiranno! Non vogl’io da voi mercé.

Non sperar da noi mercé.

BRADAMANTE Caro sposo!

RUGGIERO Anima mia!

Solo affanni, e solo pene
premio fian di vostra fé.

Solo gioie,
e solo bene premio fian di nostra fé.

Non è amor, nè gelosia, ecc.

It is not love, nor jealousy,
it is pity, …

What hidden impostors!

… and desire, what a joy you enjoy.

What false treacherous accents!

I do not hurt you …

Unworthy, quiet!

… they do not trick you!

Infamous, lies!

Hard woman! tyrant!
I do not want it from you.

Do not hope for us.

I do not hurt you, etc.

Dear husband!

My love!

Only cares, and only pains
the prize comes from of your faith.

Only joy, and only good
come of our faith.

Ah! mio cor! schernito sei!
Stelle! Dei!
Nume d’amore!
T’amo tanto;
puoi lasciarmi sola in pianto,
oh Dei! Perchè?

Ma, che fa gemendo Alcina?
Son reina, è tempo ancora:
resti o mora,
peni sempre, o torni a me.
Ah! mio cor! schernito sei, ecc.

(Alcina parte, mentre Morgana entra)

Ah! My heart! Tanted are you!
Stars! Gods! God of love!
Traitor! I love you so much;
you can leave me alone crying,
oh gods! Why?

But, what is Alcina doing whining?
I’m queen, it’s still time:
Stay or die, hurt forever,
or come back to me.

(Alcina leaves, while Morgana enters)

Verdi prati, selve amene,
perderete la beltà.
Vaghi fior, correnti rivi,
la vaghezza, la bellezza
presto in voi si cagerà.
E cangiato il vago oggetto
all orror del primo aspetto
tutto in voi ritornerà.

Green fields, and pleasant groves,
you will lose your beauty.
Pretty flowers, running streams,
your charm, your loveliness
will soon be no more.
And when your beauty has gone,
the primal ugliness,
will be all that remains.

La Stupenda

Born: November 7, 1926 – Sydney, Australia
Died: October 10, 2010 – near Geneva, Switzerland

The celebrated Australian soprano, Joan Sutherland, was taught piano and voice by her mother until she was 19, when she trained formally in Sydney with John and Aida Dickens.

Joan Sutherland sang in concerts, oratorios and broadcasts throughout Australia and in August 1947 made a significant concert debut in Sydney as Purcell’s Dido. In 1951 she sang the title role in the world premiere of Eugene Goosen’s Judith at the Sydney Conservatiorium. The same year, having won Australia’s foremost vocal competition, she came to London and studied with Clive Carey at the Opera School of the RCM. She then joined the Covent Garden company where she made her debut on 28 October 1952, as the First Lady in Die Zauberflote.

As a company soprano at Covent Garden, Joan Sutherland sang of roles encompassing a broad range of the repertoire from Weber (Agathe in Der Freischutz) and Wagner to Tippett by way of Offenbach, Georges Bizet, Mozart and Verdi. Her career was influenced from this time by her collaboration with (and marriage to) Richard Bonynge, who was convinced that her future lay in the coloratura repertoire. Her long apprenticeship (something that she feels many singers today could benefit from) came to fruition in the famous production of Lucia di Lammermoor in 1959; conducted by the veteran Italian Tullio Serafin and produced by Franco Zeffirelli.

Joan Sutherland’s international career was launched as she embarked upon a series of triumphant debuts at the world’s leading opera houses singing Lucia; (Paris – April 1960; La Scala – May 1961, and the Metropolitan – November 1961). A worthy exponent of George Frideric Handel, she sang the title role in Alcina for her debut at La Fenice, Venice in February 1960 and at Dallas in November 1960 (her USA debut).

Joan Sutherland’s repertoire of roles continued to grow throughout her career. She sang Amina (La Sonnambula) , Violetta (La Traviata) and Elvira (I Puritani) alongside Semiramide, Marguerite de Valois (Les Huguenots), Marguerite (Faust), Lakme, Cleopatra (Giulio Cesare) and Norma. Amongst her other roles, a great favourite for herself and the public was Marie, the tomboy soldier in The Daughter of the Regiment. Later in her career, she added roles such as Tales of Hoffmann (singing all four roles), Lucrezia Borgia, Anna Bolena, Esclarmonde and Adriana Lecouvreur. Her final performances were in Sydney (1990) as Marguerite de Valois in Les Huguenots. Her final Covent Garden appearance was as guest performer in the New Year’s Eve performance of of Die Fledermaus in 1990, when she sang duets with Luciano Pavarotti and Marilyn Horne, as well as”Home, Sweet Home”, a favourite encore item (as it was of Dame Nellie Melba).

Joan Sutherland received many international honors, among them , the award of Dame of the British Empire in 1979 and the much prized Order of Merit (limited in number, and very rarely awarded to musicians; Edward Elgar was a previous recipient) in 1991.

In retirement, Joan Sutherland was in demand as an adjudicator at major singing competitions, together with Marilyn Horne, she was a regular member of the panel at the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. She died at the age of 83 following a long illness, on October 10, 2010 at her home near Geneva, Switzerland.

Fritz Wunderlich

Born: September 26, 1930 – Palatine town of Kusel, Germany
Died: September 17, 1966 – Heidelberg, Germany

The esteemed German tenor, Fritz Wunderlich, who was born to a violinist mother and choir director father, was no doubt enveloped in music at an early age. Urged to pursue classical voice training by theater people who heard him singing as they passed the bakery where he worked, the young Wunderlich was granted a scholarship to the Freiburg Music Academy in Breisgau by the town fathers. He studied there from 1950 to 1955, also studying the classical horn which explains his almost supernatural breath control.

After playing Tamino in a 1955 student production of W.A. Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Fritz Wunderlich was engaged by the Wurttemberg State Opera in Stuttgart. His first professional role was as Ulrich Eislinger in Die Meistersinger. When he was called to play Tamino for an ailing Josef Traxel, Stuttgart had a new star and Fritz Wunderlich’s short but amazing career had begun.

During the remaining decade of his life Fritz Wunderlich gained the highest respect as a W.A. Mozart singer, lending lyrical brilliance to J.S. Bach, Schubert and Gustav Mahler and melodic tenderness to Bel Canto and light opera roles. Following such greats as Tauber and Schmidt, Wunderlich also devoted a good part of his time to the beautiful songs of such composers as Strauss, Lehár, Kálmán and Fall. Singing with the Bavarian State Opera and the Vienna State Opera, he also sang every year at the famed Salzburg Festival. After a a highly successful concert tour of the United States in 1964 and engagements at Covent Garden and Edinburgh in 1965, Wunderlich planned his Metropolitan debut as Don Ottavio on October 8, 1966. However, it was not to be. He died September 17, 1966, a week before his 36th birthday in an accidental fall down a stone stairway at a friend’s castle in Heidelberg.

Although he never realized his due as a truly international star in his lifetime, Fritz Wunderlich has since become a favorite of opera lovers the world over.


The setting of the opera is the enchantress Alcina’s island: here by her magic powers she has created a magnificent palace in a beautiful landscape, to lure her many lovers into her power. One of these is Ruggiero, a warrior, who under Alcina’s spell has forsaken his duty and his betrothed, Bradamante.

Act I
The opera begins with the arrival of Bradamante (disguised as her own brother Ricciardo) and Melisso (her former tutor) on the sea shore. With the help of a magic ring they intend to break the spell which binds Ruggiero to Alcina, and to release her other captives, who have been variously transformed. Bradamante and Melisso are greeted by Alcina’s sister, Morgana (also an enchantress) and pretend to have lost their way. Morgana immediately falls in love with ‘Ricciardo’ (Bradamante), although she is betrothed to Oronte, the commander of Alcina’s forces.

The scene changes to Alcina’s palace, where she sits in splendour. She greets the strangers, and lavishly expands on her love for Ruggiero, asking him to show her guests her palace and estates. When she has gone, the boy Oberto asks Melisso and Bradamante to help him to find his father, Asotlfo; it is clear to them (though Oberto is ignorant of it) that he must have been changed into a wild beast, like so many others.

Melisso and Bradamante, finding themselves alone with Ruggiero, tax him with his desertion, but he treats them with contempt; he longs only for Alcina’s return, and leaves them.

Oronte, Morgana’s lover, has already discovered her new passion for ‘Ricciardo’, and now challenges ‘him’. Morgana hurries in to intercede, spurning Oronte, and defending ‘Ricciardo’. Later, Oronte meets Ruggiero still looking for Alcina; and in malevolent mood, decides to reveal to him Alcina’s treatment of her past lovers. When Ruggiero refuses to believe in her infidelity, Oronte invents a passion on Alcina’s part for ‘Ricciardo’ to convince him. On finding Alcina, Ruggiero confronts her wih this supposed love; she strongly denies it, and reaffirms her love for Ruggiero, in Bradamante’s presence. After Alcina’s departure, Bradamante cannot resist revealing her identity to Ruggiero, though Melisso quickly denies it. Ruggiero chooses to believe Melisso, and assuming ‘Ricciardo’ to be trying to conceal ‘his’ love for Alcina, boasts that her affections are his alone, and departs.

Morgana comes in with the news that Alcina intends to prove her love to Ruggiero by turning ‘Ricciardo’ into a wild beast; Morgana urges ‘him’ to escape, but ‘Ricciardo’ (Bradamante) tells her to go back to Alcina to say that ‘he’ cannot love her, as ‘he’ loves another; when Morgana assumes that this refers to her, Bradamante allows the deception, and withdraws. Morgana concludes the act with rejoicing in ‘Ricciardo’s’ love.

Act II
The second act brings the almost immediate revelation to Ruggiero that he is the victim of enchantment. After lamenting Alcina’s absence, Ruggiero is confronted by Melisso, now disguised as his old tutor, Atlante. Ruggiero is sternly reminded of his duty, and when Melisso/Atlante puts the magic ring on his finger, the island is revealed as it really is, empty of all grandeur and beauty. He immediately longs to see Bradamante, and repair the damage caused by Alcina. Melisso, now himself again, tells him of the plans for escape. Ruggiero is to put on his armour, and pretending to long to hunt in the forest, make his escape. Although he is now free of the enchantment, he still mistrusts Alcina; and at his next meeting with Bradamante he cannot be sure that Alcina has not disgusied herself as Bradamante to keep him in her power. Bradamante is in despair; Ruggiero, left alone, fears for the consequences if, after all, he has again failed Bradamante.

Morgana interrupts Alcina as she prepares to utter the spell which will turn Bradamante into a wild beast. She is followed by Ruggiero, who, without revealing that he no longer loves her, convinces Alcina that he desires nothing so brutal to convince him of her love. He then persuades her, against her will, to let him go hunting.

Oberto reappears, still lamenting his father’s disappearance; Alcina is moved, and offers him hope of reunion.

Oronte now brings news of the intentions of Ruggiero, Melisso and Bradamante to flee, and Alcina laments her fate. Although Oronte taunts Morgana with ‘Ricciardo’s’ defection, she refuses to believe him. Bradamante next appears, with Oberto, and swearing him to secrecy, tells him of her power to break Alcina’s spells, and thus release his father.
Bradamante and Ruggiero are now at last united; Morgana overhears them, and is outraged to find that ‘Ricciardo’ is Bradamante, and that Alcina has been betrayed by Ruggiero. The act concludes with Alcina’s vain attempts to summon her spirits to prevent Ruggiero’s flight, and she throws away her wand in despair.

The last act opens with Morgana’s efforts to regain the affections of Oronte. As he swore to do earlier, he rebuffs her; but when she has gone, he admits that he still loves her. Ruggiero and Alcina unexpectedly meet, and she demands to know why he is leaving her. When he tells her that he must return to his duty and his betrothed, she contemptuously dismisses him, swearing vengeance.

Melisso, Bradamante and Ruggiero prepare to rout Alcina’s forces with the magic ring and shield; Bradamante swears to leave the island only when all Alcina’s victims are released.

Oronte next informs Alcina that her navy has indeed been defeated at the hands of Ruggiero; aside, he expresses satisfaction that Alcina is at last going to pay dearly for her cruelty. Alcina, in despair, longs for oblivion. When Oberto reminds her of her promise to reunite him with his father, she maliciously brings a lion out of its cage, and orders Oberto to kill it with her dagger. He knows it must be his father and, refusing, threatens her instead, before retreating with the dagger.

The final stage begins with Ruggiero and Bradamante approaching an urn, source of all Alcina’s magic power, intending to destroy it. In an attempt to prevent them, Alcina forswears any evil intentions, claiming only desire for their happiness. She offers to break the urn herself; but she has lost all hope of being trusted, and Ruggiero duly shatters the enchanted urn. Alcina and Morgana rush away, lamenting their doom.
The end of Alcina’s magic powers causes the palace to be ruined and submerged by the sea. Alcina’s bewitched lovers are revived, Oberto and Astolfo are reunited, and all sing of their relief and joy.