I’m going to keep this short and sweet: I didn’t like this production of Handel’s Ariodante.

The program for Ariodante.

The program for Ariodante.

First, let me say that I thought the singing and playing were brilliant.  In particular, Alice Coote as Ariodante and Jane Archibald as Ginevra did full justice to Handel’s arias.  Coote’s delivery of the piece’s big hit tune, Scherza Infida, was thrilling, to single out one musical moment.

Second, I liked the puppets.  Yes, that’s right, the puppets, which some people have sneered at.  There are 2 orchestral interludes in which the chorus uses puppets of Ariodante and Ginevra to illustrate certain ideas and public feelings about the goings on in the plot.  For instance, the second puppet show features the slut-shaming of Ginevra.  I thought they were good fun.

So what didn’t I like?  The setting.  I’m sorry, but a 3-room fisherman’s cottage in the Hebrides doesn’t do it for me as the setting of an opera seria,  Especially when you’re reading surtitles in which people are addressing each other as ‘King,’ or ‘Duke,’ or ‘Princess.’   The Hebrides are at least in Scotland, I suppose, but still I call it a feeble effort.

Another quibble: Who decided that Polinesso should be an unconvincing knock-off of Fonzi from the Happy Days?  Vardhuhi Abrahmayan did her level best, but the character seemed to me to have wandered in from some other show.

If you missed the Toronto run of Ariodante, you can catch it on YouTube, as you can most everything these days.  It’s exactly the same production, but with a different cast and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra under Andrea Marcon.  Have a look and see what you think:

I’m happy to say that I did like the ending.  Instead of the prescribed happy matrimonial ending, Ginevra packs her suitcase and leaves the island.  Given what she’s been through with the islanders, it’s a sound decision!

I know this production got glowing reviews from the Toronto press, but I just couldn’t bring myself to like it.  If you saw it, what did you think?

Please let me know in the comments, on the Versailles Century Facebook page, on our Instagram gallery, or on Twitter (@Versailles_Cent).