Following the myths of the knight Ruggiero from Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, this opera is set on and around the island of Alcina. Ruggiero has been captured by the sorceress Alcina, and is under her spell, believing her to be young and beautiful, and not the ancient sorceress she really is. Melissa, another powerful sorceress, has seen Ruggiero’s future, and knows that he must marry his betrothed Bradamante, so sets out to rescue Ruggiero from Alcina. Alcina does everything she can to keep him from leaving, but Melissa is more powerful and forces Alcina to flee the island. As she leaves, the people who have been imprisoned on the island, enchanted as trees and rocks, return to life.
With sorceresses arriving on dolphins, singing plants, enormous whalebone boats that grow wings and fly away, a chorus of monsters, and a ballet designed to be performed on horseback, Francesca Caccini’s 1625 opera really is an enchanting spectacle. It can be performed with a full cast and chorus, or with just eight singers doubling roles, and it would be perfect for younger singers as none of the roles have particular technical challenges, and sit within easily accessible vocal ranges.