Performance Sunday, October 26, 2014 | 2 PM

The English Concert

Handel's Alcina (opera in concert)

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
An enchanted island, a knight errant, one of the most seductive sorceresses in all of music, and a happy ending that could only take place in a Baroque opera make Handel’s Alcina magical fun. Gramophone magazine said that Joyce DiDonato “is superb: Her Alcina is a complex, feminine creature, vain, and vindictive.” DiDonato casts her spell in one of her signature roles when she’s joined by Alice Coote and The English Concert, conducted by Baroque specialist Harry Bicket.


  • The English Concert
    Harry Bicket, Artistic Director and Conductor
  • Joyce DiDonato, Mezzo-Soprano (Alcina)
  • Alice Coote, Mezzo-Soprano (Ruggiero)
  • Anna Christy, Soprano (Morgana)
  • Christine Rice, Mezzo-Soprano (Bradamante)
  • Ben Johnson, Tenor (Oronte)
  • Wojtek Gierlach, Bass (Melisso)
  • Anna Devin, Soprano (Oberto)


  • HANDEL Alcina (concert performance)

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately four hours, including two 20-minute intermissions.


  • The English Concert

    With an unsurpassed reputation for inspiring performances of Baroque and Classical music, The English Concert ranks among the finest chamber orchestras in the world. Created by Trevor Pinnock in 1973, the orchestra appointed Harry Bicket as its artistic director in 2007. Mr. Bicket is renowned for his work with singers, and his collaborators in recent seasons include Lucy Crowe, Elizabeth Watts, and Sarah Connolly.

    Part of the Arts Council National Portfolio program, The English Concert has toured widely throughout England, and in the 2014-2015 season the ensemble appears across the UK. Recent highlights include European and US tours with Alice Coote, Sara Mingardo, Anna Caterina Antonacci, David Daniels, and Andreas Scholl, as well as the orchestra's first tour to mainland China. Harry Bicket directed The English Concert and Choir in Bach's Mass in B Minor at the 2012 Leipzig Bachfest and later that year at the BBC Proms, a performance that was televised for BBC 4. Following the success of Handel's Radamisto in 2013, Carnegie Hall has commissioned one Handel opera each season from The English Concert. Theodora followed in early 2014, with performances on the West Coast, as well as Paris's Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and the Barbican in London. Future seasons will feature performances of Handel's Hercules and Orlando.

    The English Concert's discography includes more than 100 recordings with Trevor Pinnock for Deutsche Grammophon / Archiv and a series of critically acclaimed CDs for Harmonia Mundi with violinist Andrew Manze. Recordings with Harry Bicket have been widely praised, including Lucy Crowe's debut solo recital, Il Caro Sassone. In October, EMI Classics released Sound the Trumpet, a recording of Baroque music for trumpet with Alison Balsom and The English Concert directed by Trevor Pinnock. A new recording with music by Handel and mezzo-soprano Alice Coote was recently released. The English Concert works with several distinguished guest directors, including violinist Fabio Biondi and harpsichordist Laurence Cummings.

    Harry Bicket

    Renowned as an opera and concert conductor, Harry Bicket is especially noted for his interpretations of Baroque and Classical repertoire. He became artistic director of The English Concert in 2007. In 2013, he was appointed chief conductor of the Santa Fe Opera.

    Mr. Bicket's engagements in the 2014-2015 season include performances with the Oslo Philharmonic, Orchestra of St Luke's, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Extensive commitments with The English Concert include concert performances of Handel's Alcina and Hercules at venues that include the Barbican in London and Paris's Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. In addition, Mr. Bicket performs recitals at London's Wigmore Hall with Sarah Connolly, Rosemary Joshua, and Rachel Podger, and directs a Bach program with countertenor Iestyn Davies at Christ Church Spitalfields in December.

    More Info

  • Joyce DiDonato

    Winner of the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Solo, Joyce DiDonato entrances audiences and critics alike across the globe. She has soared to the top of the industry as both a performer and a fierce arts advocate. Born in Kansas and a graduate of Wichita State University and the Academy of Vocal Arts, Ms. DiDonato trained in the young artist programs of San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and Santa Fe Opera. Her signature roles include the bel canto roles of Rossini, and her discography includes the Grammy Award-winning Diva Divo, Drama Queens, and ReJoyce!--a retrospective of her first 10 years of recordings that was released last year on Erato / Warner Classics. Other honors include the Gramophone Artist of the Year and Recital of the Year awards, two German ECHO Klassik awards as Female Singer of the Year, and an induction into the Gramophone Hall of Fame.

    Ms. DiDonato's recent engagements include the Last Night of the Proms at London's Royal Albert Hall; the title role in Maria Stuarda at the Metropolitan Opera; Elena in La donna del lago at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and Santa Fe Opera; and Romeo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi at San Francisco Opera and in Munich. Other highlights include I Capuleti e i Montecchi at Kansas City Opera, Cendrillon in Barcelona, La clemenza di Tito at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Angelina in La Cenerentola at the Metropolitan Opera, and the title role of Maria Stuarda at Covent Garden.

    More Info

  • Alice Coote

    Soprano Alice Coote has received acclaim on the great recital, concert, and opera stages of the world. The recital platform is central to her musical life, and she has performed throughout the UK, Europe, and the US at venues that include London's Wigmore Hall, where she has been a resident artist; the BBC Proms; Amsterdam's Concertgebouw; the Vienna Konzerthaus; Lincoln Center; and Carnegie Hall. Ms. Coote is acclaimed in particular for her performances of Strauss, Mahler, Berlioz, Mozart, Handel, and Bach with orchestras that include the London, Boston, and Chicago symphony orchestras; the New York Philharmonic; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen; Hallé Orchestra; and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra with such conductors as Valery Gergiev, Christoph von Dohnányi, Jiří Bělohlávek, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Sir Mark Elder, Pierre Boulez, Vladimir Jurowski, and Paavo Järvi.

    Ms. Coote's many recordings include an album of English songs titled The Power of Love (Hyperion), songs by Schumann and Mahler (EMI), Handel's Messiah and Mahler's Symphony No. 2 (EMI), Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius and The Apostles (Hallé), the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos (Chandos), Orfeo (Virgin Classics), Handel's The Choice of Hercules (Hyperion), Brahms's Alto Rhapsody (Tudor), Schubert's Winterreise (Wigmore Hall Live), and Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (Pentatone). DVD appearances include Messiah (EMI), Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel (EMI), Nerone in L'incoronazione di Poppea (Decca), Ruggiero in Alcina (Arte), and Maffio Orsini in Lucrezia Borgia (Medici Arts).

    Highlights this season include performances of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Der Rosenkavalier at the Vienna State Opera, and Xerxes at the English National Opera, as well as a CD that features Handel arias with Harry Bicket and The English Concert (Hyperion).

    More Info

  • Anna Christy

    This season, soprano Anna Christy performs in Le rossignol with ZaterdagMatinee under Charles Dutoit, and also sings Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw and Marie in La fille du régiment at Santa Fe Opera. Last season, Ms. Christy appeared at the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto under Seiji Ozawa in Ravel's L'enfant et les sortilèges and sang Gilda in Christopher Alden's new production of Rigoletto at the English National Opera. She also made her Canadian Opera Company debut singing the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor under Stephen Lord.

    Additional highlights include Olympia in Les contes d'Hoffmann at the Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago; Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the English National Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago; Oscar in Un ballo in maschera at San Francisco Opera, Opéra National de Paris, and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos at Lyric Opera of Chicago; Blonde in Die Entführung aus dem Serail; Lucia  for the English National Opera; Zerlina in Don Giovanni at Los Angeles Opera; and Cunégonde in Robert Carsen's Candide at Teatro alla Scala, Théâtre du Châtelet, and English National Opera.

    In concert, Ms. Christy has collaborated with such conductors as James Conlon in Die Entführung aus dem Serail at the Ravinia Festival, Michael Tilson Thomas in Fidelio with the San Francisco Symphony, and Sir Andrew Davis in Delius's A Mass of Life at the Edinburgh International Festival. She has appeared frequently with orchestras such as the Chicago, Milwaukee, and National symphony orchestras and The Philadelphia Orchestra, in repertoire that has included Mahler's Symphony No. 4, Carmina Burana, and Mozart's Mass in C Minor.

    More Info

  • Christine Rice

    Christine Rice is one of the leading British mezzo-sopranos of her generation. A regular performer at major European opera houses that include the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; Munich's Bavarian State Opera; Frankfurt Opera; Madrid's Teatro Real; and English National Opera, she has built a reputation both as a singing actress and as a Handelian of the highest order.

    For the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Ms. Rice's roles have included Judith in Duke Bluebeard's Castle, Concepción in L'heure espagnol, the title role in The Rape of Lucretia, Giulietta in Les contes d'Hoffmann, Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel, and Carmen; in addition, she created the roles of Miranda and Ariadne in the world premieres of Thomas Adès's The Tempest and Harrison Birtwistle's The Minotaur, respectively. For the English National Opera, her roles include Dorabella in Così fan tutte, Marguerite in La damnation de Faust, and Arsace in Partenope. Other notable roles include Penelope in Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria for Oper Frankfurt, Diana in La Calisto for the Grand Théâtre de Genève, Beatrice in Béatrice et Bénédict for Paris's Opéra Comique, Carmen for Deutsche Oper Berlin, and the title roles of Ariodante and Rinaldo for the Bavarian State Opera.

    Ms. Rice has appeared in concert throughout the UK, Europe, and North America, as well as at the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh International Festival, with conductors who include Sir Antonio Pappano, Sir Mark Elder, Edward Gardner, Fabio Luisi, Sir Andrew Davis, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

    More Info

  • Ben Johnson

    Winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Award in 2008, Ben Johnson is currently an English National Opera Harewood Artist and a Wigmore Hall Emerging Talent. Recent opera engagements include Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Alfredo in La traviata, and Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore for the English National Opera; Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni for the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, English National Opera, and Opéra National de Bordeaux; Bénédict in Béatrice et Bénédict for the Chelsea Opera Group; the Shepherd and the Sailor in concert performances of Tristan und Isolde with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; and the Novice in Billy Budd at the Glyndebourne Festival.

    Recent concert engagements include a Mozart program with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Bach's St. Matthew Passion with the Residentie Orkest; Mendelssohn's "Lobgesang" Symphony with the Orquestra Gulbenkian; Britten's St. Nicolas with the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, and Britten Sinfonia; Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings  with the Residentie Orkest and the English Chamber Orchestra at the BBC Proms; Tippett's A Child of Our Time with the London Philharmonic Orchestra; Beethoven's Mass in C Major  with the Philharmonia Orchestra; and Haydn's Creation with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

    In recital, Mr. Johnson works regularly with Graham Johnson, performing at Wigmore Hall and at the Ruhr Klavier and Aldeburgh festivals. Highlights in the 2014-2015 season include Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Britten's War Requiem with Marin Alsop at Royal Festival Hall; Alfredo in a revival of La traviata at the English National Opera; the Evangelist in Bach's St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion with the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, and The Bach Choir, respectively; a recital with James Baillieu at Wigmore Hall; and Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail for his Berlin State Opera debut.

    More Info

  • Wojtek Gierlach

    Wojtek Gierlach's operatic roles include Don Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Deutsche Oper Berlin, Assur in Semiramide at the Royal Danish Opera and Teatro Verdi di Pisa, Oroveso in Norma with Teatro Nacional de São Carlos Lisbon, Mustafa in L'italiana in Algeri at Teatro Alighieri di Ravenna and Minnesota Opera, Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro at Warsaw's Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa and Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari, Alidoro in La Cenerentola at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, Argenio in Imeneo for Opera Ireland, Orbazzano in Tancredi at Seville's Teatro de la Maestranza, and Leporello in Don Giovanni with Cape Town Opera.

    Career highlights have included the title roles in Mendelssohn's Elias at the Warsaw Philharmonic conducted by Helmuth Rilling, Bach's Magnificat with the National Orchestra of Spain, Mozart's Requiem with Sinfonietta Cracovia conducted by Marc Minkowski, Verdi's Requiem at the Polish Baltic Philharmonic, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the Ulster Orchestra, Salieri's The Passion of Jesus Christ with I Solisti Veneti, Rossini's Stabat Mater with Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias, Penderecki's Dies Irae with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, and Arvo Pärt's Passion at Prague's Spring Festival.

    Recordings include Rossini's Mosè in Egitto and La donna del lago and Meyerbeer's Semiramide under Richard Bonynge, Ramón Carnicer's Il dissoluto punito conducted by Alberto Zedda, Luigi Mosca's L'italiana in Algeri, Cherubini's Lodoïska and Weber's Euryanthe conducted by Łukasz Borowicz, and Guillaume Tell with Michele Mariotti for Deutsche Grammophon.

    Upcoming engagements include Claudio in Agrippina at Warsaw Chamber Opera, The Love for Three Oranges with Krakow Opera, Melisso in Alcina with the Royal Danish Opera, Gessler in Guillaume Tell at Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa, and Beethoven's Missa solemnis at Berlin's Konzerthaus.

    More Info

  • Anna Devin

    A former member of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House, the Britten-Pears Young Artists Programme, and the National Opera Studio, Irish soprano Anna Devin has established herself as one of today's brightest young artists. This season, she sings Morgana in Alcina with the Russian National Orchestra under Chris Moulds, returns to Covent Garden as Nanetta in Falstaff under Michael Schønwandt, and sings Michal in a new production of Saul with the Glyndebourne Touring Opera. In concert, she performs Messiah with the Houston Symphony and Minnesota Orchestra, and Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, both conducted by Christopher Warren-Green.

    Recent highlights include Clotilde in Handel's Faramondo under Lawrence Cummings at the Handel Festival Göttingen, 'A' in Luke Bedford's Through His Teeth for the Royal Opera House's Linbury Studio Theatre, Zerlina in Don Giovanni for the Scottish Opera under Speranza Scappucci, Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel at Garsington Opera under Martin André, Susanna in Le nozze diFigaro with the Glyndebourne Touring Opera under Jonathan Cohen, and Silvia in L'isola disabitata with the Royal Opera House at the Hobart Baroque Festival in Tasmania conducted by Oliver Gooch.

    In concert, Ms. Devin has appeared in Parsifal at the BBC Proms with the Hallé Orchestra under Sir Mark Elder, as well as at the London Handel, Brighton Early Music, and Belfast festivals, and with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and Ulster Orchestra. This season, she returns to the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra for New Year's Eve galas in Dublin, and to Wigmore Hall with the Classical Opera under Ian Page.

    More Info


Pre-concert talk starts at 1:00 PM in Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage with Benjamin Sosland, The Juilliard School.


"Ombre pallide, lo so, mi udite" from Handel's Alcina
Joyce DiDonato, Mezzo-Soprano | Il Complesso Barocco | Alan Curtis, Conductor
Archiv Produktion

At a Glance

Premiered in 1735, Alcina represents Handel's last great masterpiece in the field of Italian opera—a triumphant but ultimately futile effort to enable this art form to survive in the then-rapidly changing musical-theatrical world of London. It contains quantities of his richest and most inspired music, which in a staged performance are bolstered by dazzling scenic effects. Its greatest asset, however, is its spellbinding title character; in lesser hands, she might be merely a stock villainess, but through Handel's genius, she becomes a character of tragic pathos whose downfall leaves us with profoundly mixed feelings. Alcina may be a cruel sorceress who changes her suitors into helpless beasts, but Handel shows her also as a highly emotional and vulnerable woman whose capacity for love ultimately destroys her.

After 280 years, Alcina remains one of the great prima donna roles in the operatic repertoire—a test of both vocal virtuosity and dramatic prowess. The Handel Opera Society's London revival of Alcina in 1957 featured Joan Sutherland in the title role, a performance that heralded her arrival as a superstar. Today, the brilliant Joyce DiDonato is becoming the leading exponent of this fascinating, multifaceted character. Though Alcina is usually sung by a soprano, DiDonato's agile mezzo-soprano possesses an extended range that enables her to easily encompass its highest reaches.
Program Notes


Joyce DiDonato talks about Handel's Alcina.

Perspectives: Joyce DiDonato

Part of