The Cast of La Liberazione di Ruggiero
Introducing the cast – both human and wooden – for Magnificat’s upcoming production of La Liberazione di Ruggiero. Presenting an opera with puppets allows the freedom for one singer to take on several roles. La Liberazione di Ruggiero features three primary roles: the galant, if temporarily mis-guided, knight Ruggiero and two sorceresses: the evil Alcina and and the benevolent Melissa. In addition there are shepherds, sirens, damigelle, and enchanted trees. (Full bios of all the musicians (and puppeteers!) in the production can be viewed here.)
Catherine Webster has been singing with Magnificat for ten years now. Since her unforgettable debut as a last minute addition in our first performance of the remarkable music of Chiara Margarita Cozzolani in 1999, Catherine has become an audience favorite. In this production she will sing the role of the evil sorceress Alcina, who has seduced Ruggiero, like so many knights before him, with her charm and beauty and the sensual delights of her palace. Though her beauty turns out to be an illusion, the pathos of her lament/complaint after Ruggiero abandons her, the high point of the opera, both thematically and musically is genuine.
Fresh from her triumphant performances with Les Grâces on the SFEMS series last month, Jennifer Paulino will sing the role of the Siren sent to entertain Ruggiero in Alcina’s pleasure garden, as well as several other roles. Jennifer first sang with Magnificat in our 2007 performances of Stradella’s La Susanna and has returned frequently since then. In contrast to the three principal characters, Ruggiero, Alcina, and Melissa, who sing entirely in syllabic recitative, the other roles, like the Siren, sing in strophic, metered poetry, often in triple meter.
It is a pleasure to welcome back José Lemos, who sang the role of Nino in Magnificat’s production of Stradella’s Il Tespolo tutore in 2007. This time José will sing the role of the good sorceress Melissa, who is actually the agent of Ruggiero’s “liberation” from the enchantment of Alcina’s island. In order to demonstrate to Ruggiero of the error of his ways and convince him to return to his knightly duties, Melissa transforms herself into the appearance of Atlante (Atlas in Orlando furioso), who had been a mentor/father figure to both herself and Ruggiero. José will also sing the role of Alcina’s servant Oreste, who delivers the news that Ruggiero has forsaken Alcina.
Tenor Scott Whitaker will be reviving the role of Ruggiero, which he sang in the Carter Family’s production in 2007. Scott has sung many times with Magnificat over the past decade, most recently in Schütz’ Resurrection Story in 2005. In the particular episode of Orlando furioso captured in Caccini’s opera, Ruggiero is initially depicted as emasculated and weak, having succumbed to the powers of Alcina, affording the opportunity for a love duet based on the conceit of the mirror, drawn from Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata. After his “liberation” though, he dons his armour and returns to his heroic ways, conquering dragons and various demons in pitched battle.
A familiar face (and voice) to Magnificat audiences, Tenor Daniel Hutchings has appeared with Magnificat for many years. In this production, he will sing a variety of roles, most notably a lovesick shepherd who entertains Ruggiero in Alcina’s garden with his aria about love lost and then re-affirmed. The pastoral topic of the amorous adventures of shepherd and shepherdesses was well established by the 1620s, owing in no small part to the remarkable popularity of Guarino’s Il Pastor Fido, along with Orlando furioso the most popular literature in Italy at the time.
Baritone Hugh Davies first sang with Magnificat in our 1994 prodcution of Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo. Among his roles in that production was a “damned soul in Heaven” for which he wore a flaming red body suit. (Hugh is thankful that Facebook and cell phone cameras didn’t exist in 1994!) In this production, Hugh will sing the role of Neptune, who appears in the Prologue to welcome the guest of honor – the Crown Prince of Poland, who was visiting Florence for Carnival. Neptune urges the mighty Vistola river (sung by Dan Hutchings), which flows through Warsaw, to join him in the welcome, and then sets the stage for the drama to follow.