Scottish Opera, Theatre Royal, 18th – 20th February 2016
Attending a nearly 300 year old opera may seem daunting, but Scottish Opera’s Ariodante was inviting, interesting and entertaining. To put a text which is essentially about 18th century morals into a modern context is an impressive feat, and it was an enjoyable evening as well.
Ariodante follows the soldier Ariodante and the King’s daughter Ginevra, two lovers who are deceived by the jealous Duke Polinesso. After the King commands the couple to be married, Polinesso tells Ariodante he is surprised, as he has been sleeping with Ginevra, and to come by Ginevra’s quarters that evening to see for himself. Polinesso then gets Ginevra’s servant Dalinda to dress as her mistress and invite Polinesso in, which leads Ariodante to want to end his life, or see the end of Ginevra’s, for the penalty for fornication is death.
Despite archaic and outdated views of women’s sexuality, it’s very easy to get involved in the opera’s story. This is helped by outstanding performances by the cast, who aid those unfamiliar with interpreting Italian recitative through their acting. Though the intricacies of the plot can be hard to follow at times, the characters make clear their relationships with each other.
Scottish Opera’s staging is sublime, most notably was the opening tableau which included fake snow and the backdrop of a quote from the Torah about the sin of adultery, which remains for the rest of the production. Some of the sets feature things like steel plant pots and stairs, which seem jarring when considering the costumes of evening dresses and military uniforms, but make the timing of the action seem ambiguous, suggesting it was a timeless moral tale.
Ultimately Ariodante is a very approachable opera, perhaps one of the most from the baroque period. As could have possibly been expected, it was maybe difficult at times to sit through 3 hours of Handel, as there are only so much basso continuo one can take. Despite this, it was definitely watchable.