In this series, Artist Interviews, we hear what our artists have to say about the project they're currently part of...
We're pleased to have Laura Mitchell, who will be seeing the role of Alcina, share her thoughts:
Alcina is a complex character, but if you had to describe Alcina in 5 words or less, what would you say?
Sexual, Sociopath, Sorceress.
What aspect of Alcina can you most easily relate to? What aspect is it most difficult for you to relate to?
There is a casual selfishness about Alcina that is unfortunately very easy to relate to! In her, this trait went very wrong, as she has gone on for hundreds of years without anyone disobeying her wishes. But even as a mere mortal, empathy is something that must be constantly practiced. It is easy to fall in to the trap of thinking you are the center of the universe. I think this actually makes her a more relatable character, even if it makes you hate her at the same time.
The hardest part of the character to jump into easily is the overt sexuality that she displays. She doesn’t scruple to keep it in the bedroom, for someone like Alcina there is no reason to send people away if she wants to have sex. Everyone on the island is under her spell.
In your opinion, how much empathy (or sympathy) should the audience feel towards Alcina?
That’s difficult! Alcina is clearly, clearly, a horrible human being. But- she’s not a normal human being either, she’s a sorceress. The Alcina story is a very close parallel of the Circe story from Odysseus, where Odysseus lives with the goddess Circe for a year after she turns his shipmates into wild beasts. It’s hard to hold a god or demigod to the same standards as we would a mortal character. I do think there are a lot of discoveries for Alcina about herself, and the fact that she truly does love Ruggiero, that make her somewhat sympathetic.
IMHO, judging Alcina by human standards is the equivalent of judging a Venus fly-trap for killing flies. If it’s what they were created to do, can you be morally outraged by their actions?
It's doubtful anyone would call Alcina a heroine, but in your opinion, is she a villain?
There are some positive traits about Alcina – a lot of this opera is her discovering she has a heart... only to have it broken – and the "heroes" (Ruggiero, Bradamante, and Melisso) definitely have their flaws. One thing I love about this opera is the fact that the line between good & evil here is so nebulous.
How typical or rare is it for the title role of an opera to be the villain?
Some of the best operas have a villain as the hero! There is much more room for psychological study in a rotten character. Tolstoy’s opening line of Anna Karenina (another fabulous "bad girl" lead) sums it up pretty well- all happy families are like each other, but unhappy families are all unhappy in their own way. Don Giovanni is a great example of that; Traviata, Rigoletto, Manon, Carmen, Norma – most of the great operas have, at their core, deeply flawed characters. And that’s why we love them.
This is your second time performing the role - in what ways has your approach or experience been different?
Being so involved in the production side of this show as well as being a major character has definitely changed the way I execute the role. The first time I performed it, I focused a lot on the character arc of Alcina, but I think I didn’t really understand it in the context of the whole show. I hadn’t really captured the nuance of how she should interact with other characters. This time, having to go in to such detail over every character’s look/lines/music, really having to pull back in to the sources for the musical styles and the original text (Orlando Furioso), I feel like I’ve developed a much deeper understanding and empathy for Alcina. The first time I think I was somewhat guilty of flattening the character in to a Disney-caliber evil villain.
Come see Laura in the role of Alcina on February 28th!
Event details and tickets are available here.