Discover the story of Handel's Alcina.
Bradamante (disguised as her brother – ‘Ricciardo’) arrives on the island of the sorceress Alcina. She is determined to find and rescue her partner Ruggiero, who has fallen under the enchantress’s spell. Luck is on her side. Just as she and her former tutor, Melisso, are setting out to explore they encounter Morgana, Alcina’s sister, who is instantly drawn
to the handsome ‘Ricciardo’ and immediately casts aside her lover Oronte.
Morgana tells them to wait for Alcina. Suddenly the inhospitable rock turns into Alcina’s beautiful palace, where they find Ruggiero completely under her thrall, with no memory of his previous life. They also meet a young boy, Oberto, who is searching for his father Astolfo (Bradamante’s cousin), who has mysteriously disappeared. Bradamante and Melisso suspect that, like many of Alcina’s discarded former lovers, he has been transformed into a wild animal. Alone at last with Ruggiero, his friends try to reason with him, reminding him of his engagement to Bradamante, but his only thoughts are of Alcina. Oronte, furious at Morgana’s unfaithfulness, challenges Bradamante (‘Ricciardo’) to a duel. Morgana intervenes, sparing Bradamante but further enraging Oronte as she is adamant she no longer wants to stay with him.
A bitter and angry Oronte encounters Ruggiero. Determined to poison his blissful happiness, he tells him about the fate of Alcina’s former lovers, and when Ruggiero refuses to believe him he invents a romance between Alcina and ‘Ricciardo’. Overcome with jealousy, Ruggiero confronts Alcina, but she reassures him of her love. Increasingly distressed by events, Bradamante confesses her true identity to Ruggiero. But when Melisso quickly denies it to protect her, Ruggiero
is left confused.
Morgana arrives and warns ‘Ricciardo’ that Alcina plans to turn him into an animal to prove her devotion to Ruggiero and begs him to flee, but ‘Ricciardo’ refuses, telling her that he loves someone on the island and must stay. Morgana leaves ecstatic, convinced that she is his beloved.
Disguised as Atlante, Ruggiero’s former tutor, and using a magic ring, Melisso finally shows Ruggiero the truth about Alcina’s island and reminds him of his former life and love. Melisso advises a horrified Ruggiero to keep his new knowledge a secret, to continue pretending to love Alcina until he can escape under the pretext of going hunting. Bradamante reveals her true identity to Ruggiero who believes that she is just another of Alcina’s enchantments. He is confused, he no longer knows what is real and what is not.
Unsure of Ruggiero’s love, Alcina is determined to win it once and for all by transforming ‘Ricciardo’ into an animal, but she is interrupted by an ardent Ruggiero who manages to persuade her against it. Ruggiero asks Alcina permission to go hunting and she grants it. Oronte enters with news of Ruggiero and ‘Ricciardo’s plot.
The besotted Morgana refuses to believe it until she sees Ruggiero and Bradamante together with her own eyes. Alcina plots revenge, summoning the spirits to torment her new enemy. But true love has destroyed her powers of illusion and her magic fails.
Throughout the palace relationships are in crisis. Morgana pleads for the spurned Oronte’s love once again, while Alcina confronts Ruggiero. But he is adamant in his love for Bradamante, and her despair reaches new depths. News that her enchantments and magical forces have been completely defeated by her enemies is another cruel blow, and when Ruggiero and Melisso destroy the magic urn that is the source of all Alcina’s power her defeat is complete. All her spells are broken and across the island all her lovers are once again suddenly human, including Oberto’s father. They all sing of their joy, celebrating the triumph of love over magic.