Since 1968, Fargo-Moorhead Opera has entertained community members of all ages and backgrounds with high-quality opera productions.
Now, as its 50th anniversary draws near, F-M Opera is venturing in a new direction to further engage audiences in the area — starting with its production of “Alcina” this Friday and Sunday at MSUM Weld Hall.
“Alcina” kicks off F-M Opera’s new North of Normal Chamber Opera Series, a program intended to give audiences a more intimate opera experience in smaller venues, says F-M Opera General Director David Hamilton.
“This series gives us the option to expand into different periods,” he says. “This is our first opera from the Baroque Period, and our first opera by Handel, ever.”
F-M Opera’s other productions in the series later in the spring, “Speed Dating Tonight” and “Soldier Songs,” will be more contemporary opera experiences, Hamilton adds.
But Patrick Hansen, who flew in from Opera McGill in Montreal to direct “Alcina,” is particularly thrilled F-M Opera incorporated Handel into the series.
“To me, ‘Alcina’ is his most beautiful opera,” Hansen says.
Hansen has directed F-M Opera productions in the past, including the Steampunk rendition of “The Magic Flute” last season.
Hansen says he likes to get creative with settings and costumes in any show he directs, and with its magical storyline and beautiful music, “Alcina” allows for creative interpretation.
“Alcina” centers around three powerful women: Alcina, a wily sorceress who lures men to her illusive island and casts spells on them for sport; Morgana, her sister; and Bradamante, a woman who disguises herself as a man to rescue her lover Ruggiero from Alcina’s spell.
If Bradamante can’t outwit the sorceresses in time, Ruggiero could be transformed into the newest trophy in Alcina’s gallery of former lovers.
Hansen says “Alcina” is progressive for its time on many fronts, as it’s a “cool twist” of the standard knight-in-shining-armor type of tale.
The production’s colorful set incorporates Nordic runes, mythical trees and fantasy-inspired costumes and props.
Rather than a magic wand, Alcina uses a fan to cast her spells and turn men into trees and stones. Morgana uses an umbrella.
“These objects are usually used to show women being demure and hiding themselves from men, but in the production, they’re what give them power,” Hansen explains.
Hansen used a similar concept for his Opera McGill production in Montreal. He’s excited to bring it to Fargo and work with F-M Opera’s talented cast.
Cast members in “Alcina” include Miriam Khalil (Alcina), Holly Flack (Morgana), Holly Janz (Ruggiero), Kate Jackman (Bradamante), Jianghai Ho (Oronte), Mark Billy (Melisso) and Claire Bias (Oberto).
Flack and Jackman are former members of F-M Opera’s Gate City Bank Young Artists Program that give young opera singers training and stage experience. A current member, Billy, is also in the production.
“(F-M Opera) has a good track record of furthering young artists’ careers,” Hansen says.
For more information on Fargo-Moorhead Opera productions and programs, visit fmopera.org.