In this series, Artist Interviews, we hear what our artists have to say about the project they're currently part of...
Lydia Dahling, who cover studied the title role, gives us her take on Alcina and shares what it's been like to be part of the show:
Prior to this project, how familiar were you with Alcina?
I studied as a mezzo all through my undergraduate degree, and actually learned quite a bit of Ruggiero's music! However, it wasn't until this Project that I really understood the opera as a complete story. Alcina is such a nuanced work, and the complex characters manipulate each other in subtle ways.
For me, the final scene shows Alcina at her most manipulative. Her last interaction with Ruggiero was filled with threats and anger, but here, she tries to convince both him and Bradamante that she really means no harm. Of course this is a trap, which Ruggiero and Bradamante know, but Alcina keeps it up till the moment Ruggiero breaks the urn. She offers to break it herself, and of course she has no intention of actually doing it.
When you're not involved in a Baroque opera, what kind of repertoire do you enjoy working on?
Baroque opera, and Baroque music in general, have always been a large part of my repertoire, and something I love singing and exploring. The first opera I performed was Handel (Guilio Cesare), and I've sung in several early music ensembles.
Apart from that, I adore French and Russian art song, particularly the music of Duparc, Poulenc, Rachmaninoff, and Shostakovich!
Can you give us one or a few French or Russian art song recordings/clips you'd recommend we check out?
There are so many!! But, if I had to pick just a few (this is tough!!), here are my top choices:
- Regine Crespin singing Poulenc's 2 Poèmes de Louis Aragon
- Maurane singing Duparc's "L'invitation au voyge"
- Dmitri Hvorostovksy singing Rachmaninoff's "In the silence of the secret night"
- Pierre Bernac sings Poulenc's Banalites with the composer at the piano. "Sanglots", the last song, is my favorite
- Shostakovich Op. 79 "From Jewish Folk Poetry"
Alcina is a complex character. What has been the most interesting discovery you've made about her character as you've worked on this role and gotten to know this opera?
Despite the fact that Alcina is a sorceress, her feelings and emotions are very raw and very human. Opera is full of supernatural characters, like the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, but they rarely have more than two dimensions. Alcina doesn't just feel brokenhearted when Ruggiero leaves her, we see her experience frustration, anger, despair, and, in the final trio, see all of these manifested at once.
It's also interesting that for a powerful sorceress, we never see Alcina in her full possession of her powers. In her first scene, she is at the top of her game, but after that, she starts losing power, first over Ruggiero, then of her magical powers, and finally over the others around her.
As the Alcina study cover, you learned the whole role, attended rehearsals, and are also on stage as a chorus member - what has your experience been like as?
Being a cover study has been a great experience! I love being able to observe how other people work and how they process information, as well as hear their ideas. It gives me a well rounded picture of the characters and helps inform my own dramatic and musical choices.
You mentioned observing how your colleagues bring their characters to life: what's a particular character choice or discovery from this project that stands out to you?
It's hard to pick just one! I love watching how Laura manifests Alcina's strength and vulnerability simultaneously during "Ah mio cor"! A small shift in how she carries herself, or where she directs her gaze can totally change the subtext. It's awesome - it's so inspiring to see my colleagues perform and bring these characters to life!
Come see Lydia in Alcina on February 28th and March 6th!
Event details and tickets are available here.