Amadigi di Gaula

Two hundred and ninety-six years after Händel's fifth Italian opera premiered in London (King's Theatre in the Haymarket, 1715), Central City Opera has accomplished a remarkable feat in producing the North American premiere. One can only speculate on why it has taken so long to bring this incredible choral feast and magical story to these shores—but one certain factor is that two countertenors (formerly sung by the alto castratos) are required.

(Top to bottom) Christopher Ainslie as Amadigi and David Trudgen as Dardano
(Top to bottom)
Christopher Ainslie as Amadigi
and David Trudgen as Dardano
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
The company's sponsors are to be commended for their commitment to this unknown work, which proves to be a Baroque masterpiece, both musically and philosophically, for its deft convergence of Christianity and magic, something that the present-day church variants have completely lost in the misguided dogma they try to pass off as Jesus' teachings.

Amadigi (Christopher Ainslie) is a famous warrior who is in love with Oriana (Katherine Manley), the daughter of the King of the Fortunate Isles, but he has a rival for her affections, Dardano (David Trudgen), the King of Thrace. The two suitors are being held captive by a sorceress, Melissa (Kathleen Kim), who loves Amadigi and who has imprisoned Oriana in an enchanted tower.

Kathleen Kim as Melissa
Kathleen Kim as Melissa
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
British stage director Alessandro Talevi's vision for this fanciful tale is charming, with delightfully detailed sets (Madeleine Boyd) filled with curiosities and a viable conceit for showing us action at remote sites. Talevi cites such Italian High Renaissance figures as Lucrezia Borgia and Isabella d'Este as influences on this approach, although there's a little Harry Potter mixed in as well, for instance, in the magic reflecting bowl that shows Amadigi an image conjured up by Melissa.

Ainslie's voice must be heard to be fully appreciated, not only because of the rarity of countertenor performances, but for the purity of the instrument itself. Trudgen's work is also astonishing in this regard. Kim's and Manley's soprano shine as well in the wonderful acoustics of the old hall.

Katherine Manley as Oriana and Christopher Ainslie as Amadigi
Katherine Manley as Oriana
and Christopher Ainslie as Amadigi
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
A number of instruments were added to the festival orchestra to nourish the original arrangement, including recorder, harpsichord, Baroque cello, theorbo, and Baroque guitar. The result, under the baton of Matthew Halls, is a rare treat.

Central City Opera's production of Händel's Amadigi di Gaula runs through August 6th, in repertory with Bizet's Carmen and a triple bill of three one acts: Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, Francis Poulenc's The Breasts of Tiresias, and Kurt Weill's The Seven Deadly Sins. 303-292-6700 or

Bob Bows


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