Review: Rare staging of Caccini’s 1625 opera—considered the first composed by a woman

Posted on: November 29, 2018

“Productions of works by female composers are so rare they’re still treated as major events,” writes Joshua Barone in Wednesday’s (11/28) New York Times. “The latest case is Francesca Caccini’s 1625 seldom-seen ‘La Liberazione di Ruggiero Dall’Isola d’Alcina’ (‘The Liberation of Ruggiero From the Island of Alcina’), which received a humble but enlightening and lively staging this week by the Boston Early Music Festival at the Morgan Library & Museum’s Gilder Lehrman Hall. ‘Alcina’ is believed to be the first opera written by a woman… There’s no reason it doesn’t deserve to be programmed alongside Caccini’s contemporaries, like Jacopo Peri and Claudio Monteverdi…. The opera’s score is stylistically diverse and forward-looking, with surprising psychological depth and melodic beauty…. On her enchanted island, Alcina … seduces knights and, once bored with them, turns them (and those who attempt to rescue them) into plants…. What follows is a witch-against-witch battle for Ruggiero’s soul…. The original production of ‘Alcina’ ended with a lavish horse ballet…. At the Morgan, it ended with a dance that fit awkwardly into the small hall…. If Caccini warrants a place alongside the greats of her time—and she does—then her ‘Alcina’ deserves a production to match.”

Posted November 29, 2018

In photo: In the center, from left, Teresa Wakim, Kelsey Lauritano, and Shannon Mercer in the finale of Francesca Caccini’s 1625 opera “La Liberazione di Ruggiero Dall’Isola d’Alcina” at the Morgan Library and Museum. Photo by Vincent Tullo for The New York Times