Join the Sea-Monster’s Quest
In Summer 2022, the Early Music Ensembles of Aberdeen University will perform Francesca Caccini’s La Liberazione di Ruggiero dall’ Isola di Alcina (1625). The powerful sorceress Melissa rescues the knight Ruggiero from the enchanted island of the evil sorceress Alcina and her sea-monsters!
Meet the Characters
Played by Amy Anderson and Christianna Hellwig
She is a powerful, ancient sorceress, the sister of Morgana (of Arthurian fame), and through her enchantments, appears young and beautiful. On her magical island, she has captured numerous knights (lovers of whom she has tired), and, along with their damsels, has turned them into enchanted plants and sea monsters! She is the evil villain of this opera, and expresses her extreme emotions through extreme musical modulations!
Played by Hannah Hobson and Olivia Smith
She is the good sorceress, who has travelled on the back of a dolphin to Alcina’s enchanted island, on behalf of Bradamante, a female knight in Charlemagne’s army. Bradamante’s beloved Ruggiero is one of Alcina’s captives. Melissa has come to defeat the evil sorceress, and to free the enchanted knights and damsels. A student of the famous wizard Merlin, Melissa stands for reason and balance, and her music is calm and richly-coloured.
Played by Matthew Hamilton and Martin Willems
A heroic knight, he is the beloved of the warrior princess Bradamante. He is quite content under the influence of the evil sorceress Alcina’s magic, enjoying the entertainments her enchanted island has to offer! But the good sorceress Melissa, disguised as his old teacher, is coming to bring him back to his senses, and remind him of his duties as a knight, and of Bradamante!
Played by Christopher Brighty and Daniele Clementi
The god of the sea emerges from his watery kingdom in the Prologue of the opera, and summons other water deities to join the personified River Vistula in singing the praises of Prince Wladislas Sigismund, who was visiting the Tuscan court in 1625 (in our version, we are taking a rather more Scottish angle). Then, Neptune introduces the main story, as is typical for opera prologues in this period.
- Vistula Fiume
Played by Chloë Gordon and Emily Henderson
She is the personification of the River Vistula in Poland, and she leads the Gods of the Waters in singing the praises of Prince Wladislav Sigismund, who was visiting the Tuscan court at the time of the first performance. In our version, she represents Loch Ness, which seems fitting as the home of Scotland’s most famous Sea Monster!
- The Siren
Played by Caitlin Bell and Claire Runcie
She rises alluringly from the waves to enchant Ruggiero with her singing about the delights of love. As befits a being whose music is so dangerously beautiful that she can drive sailors to leap recklessly into the ocean, the Siren ornaments her song with elaborate passaggi and trills.
- The Lady Oreste
Played by Eve Begg and Zuzanna Prusik
In early-17th-century opera (borrowing from Greek tragedy), an important character is that of the “Messenger” (nunzia in Italian), who comes bearing bad news. In this case, it is one of the evil sorceress Alcina’s ladies-in-waiting, running to tell her that the good sorceress Melissa has succeeded in turning Ruggiero away from her, by recalling his love for Bradamante and his duty as a knight. Oreste seems to enjoy drawing out her length announcement, with deliciously-tragic additions of extra flats and juxtapositions of major and minor triads.
- The Shepherd
Played by Sarah Cardwell and Emily Henderson
The shepherd sings a lilting tune about his loves. His verses alternate with a ritornello played by recorders over a drone, evoking traditional shepherd pipes. The knight Ruggiero is enchanted by the sweet song.
- Other characters
Ladies of Alcina’s Court
Played by Chloë Gordon, Emily Henderson, Megan MacDonald, Zoë Maunder, Claire Runcie, Delight Kwan, and chorus members
Gods of the Sea
Played by Chloë Gordon, Emily Henderson, Sarah Cardwell, and chorus members
Enchanted Plants and Sea Monsters
Played by Caitlin Bell, Christopher Brighty, Daniele Clementi, Chloë Gordon, Emily Henderson, Zuzanna Prusik, Claire Runcie, Delight Kwan, and chorus members
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Meet the Team
- Frauke Jürgensen
Frauke Jürgensen studied theory and composition at Western University, performance and musicology at McGill University, and is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
As a soprano, keyboard player, and baroque dancer, she performs a wide range of repertoire from late-medieval to contemporary, with a focus on Early Music as well as art song.
Her performances include cantatas such as Bach’s Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, song cycles such as Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder, and dramatic works such as Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. In 2017, she premièred a song cycle composed for her voice and solo cello by Aberdeenshire composer Geoff Palmer, Unidentified Edges.
She has appeared with ensembles such as Northern Baroque, Ensemble Combassal, and Combinatorics. With the Aberdeen Early Music Collective, formed in 2014, she has embarked on a series of performance projects intended to showcase research by musicologists based in Aberdeen.
Chez Schedel, a late-medieval programme centred around the city of Nuremberg, is based on her own research into 15th-century performance practice. The ensemble’s first recording, Prigionero d’Amor, consisting of recently- edited cantatas and sonate da chiesa of Vivaldi’s contemporary Giovanni Maria Ruggieri, was released on the Vox Regis label in 2018. At the University of Aberdeen, she directs the Early Music Ensembles and teaches Basso Continuo.
Alcina will be her fifth staged baroque opera production in collaboration with musical director Ralph Stelzenmüller, following on from Purcell’s Fairy Queen, Eccles’s The Judgment of Paris, “Orfeo’s Journey” (a pasticchio of Peri, Monteverdi, Landi, and Rossi), and Händel’s Alcina.
- Ralph Stelzenmüller
Ralph Stelzenmüller studied organ, church music and conducting at the Mozarteum in Salzburg before completing his postgraduate studies on harpsichord and organ at the Schola Cantorum in Basel, studying with Jean-Claude Zender.
For three years, he held a lectureship and taught music history at the Athanor Akademie for theater. In increasing demand as both a player of basso continuo and as an accompanist for Lied, he has performed and taught throughout Europe and South America.
With his own ensemble Combassal and as a guest conductor he has directed works including Bach (Passions, Cantatas, Missae), Handel (Operas and cantatas), Purcell (theatre music) and vocal works by Monteverdi, Schütz, Rosenmüller, Gabrieli and Gesualdo. Ralph has performed at festivals including the Innsbruck Tage der alten Musik, the Trigonale in Klagenfurt, in venues such as St Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh and Stationers’ Hall, London, and in concert series throughout Europe.
From 2010 to 2012, he held the postgraduate organ scholarship at the University of Aberdeen whilst researching the development of the basso continuo in England. He currently teaches basso continuo and directs student baroque opera projects at the University of Aberdeen.
- Pam Millar
I am a freelance dressage trainer, travelling all over the North East of Scotland, to teach people on their own horses, at their homes or in livery yards.
I have ridden for around 50 years, competed up to Prix St Georges and continue to ride and train at advanced level dressage. I focus on Classical Dressage and have a particular interest in the Portuguese style of riding.
My own horse, Venturoso, is a Lusitano stallion I imported from Portugal. Over the years, I have taken part in and choreographed many quadrilles, or teams of riders, for displays and also for pleasure.
I also help clients design there own freestyle tests and select and produce the music to go with it. Riding as a team, to music, gives experience, confidence and fun to both horse and rider and is quite different from, but beneficial to, competitive dressage.
- Helen Roberts
Originally from Birmingham, Helen Roberts has worked as a professional freelance cornettist for the past 15 years, performing, recording and touring with some of the UK and Europe’s leading period ensembles.
Following studies with Jamie Savan at Birmingham University, Helen went on study with Bruce Dickey at the Schola Cantorum, Basel, graduating in 2008 with a concert exploring three centuries of cornetto performance practice.
Helen founded Septenary Editions in 2013, and the Septenary Foundation in 2019, and works to publish, promote and support the research of fellow performing musicians. Helen also published Passaggi, an iOS and Android app for historical improvisation, released in 2020.
A recently-completed PhD thesis on the use of wind instruments in English cathedrals in the seventeenth century has led to further teaching and research work at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and Helen now splits her time between research, playing and gardening.
- Catherine Motuz
BRASS INSTRUMENT COACH
Catherine Motuz enjoys an active career as a performer, teacher, and scholar. Co-director of Ensemble La Rose des Vents in Montreal and a founding member of I Fedeli in Switzerland, she has played and recorded with ensembles including The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble, His Majesty’s Sagbutts & Cornetts, Concerto Palatino, the Amsterdam and Freiburg Baroque Orchestras, Bach Collegium Japan, and ¡Sacabuche!. As a soloist, she has performed at Festivals across Canada, the Midsommer Barock Festival in Copenhagen, and in Austria and Switzerland with countertenor Alex Potter.
Catherine studied historical trombone with Charles Toet at the Schola Cantorum from 2004–2007 and with Dominique Lortie from 2002–2004. Now a sought-after teacher herself, she has taught at McGill University, the Université de Montréal, the Royal Conservatoire of the Hague, and is currently lecturer in historical trombone at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis and occasional teacher at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
She is active as a researcher, giving workshops on historical improvisation at the universities of Oxford, Birmingham, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, the Hochschule für Künste Bremen, Guildhall school of Music, and at the Alamire foundation and the Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance in Tours. Her ongoing doctoral research focuses on ideas about musical and emotional expression in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.
Photo: Jochen Köhler
- Caroline Ritchie
Caroline Ritchie studied baroque cello at the Royal Academy of Music before moving to Europe to further her studies in the viola da gamba, first at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague and later at the Schola Cantorum in Basel, where she specialised in medieval and renaissance music, adding vielle and lirone to her portfolio of instruments alongside renaissance and baroque viols. Her Masters’ recital in Basel, and associated dissertation, focussed on the virtuoso repertoire for the viola bastarda, a field on which she has since been invited to lecture, teach and perform throughout Europe and in Canada.
Her performing career follows a lifelong love of consort playing, and of the music of the late renaissance and early baroque; she is to be heard at many major festivals, including the Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alte Musik, the Utrecht Early Music Festival,Tage Alte Musik Regensburg, Resonanzen (Wien), the Bachfest Leipzig, Montreal Baroque, and the Edinburgh Festival, and with ensembles including the New London Consort, the Dunedin Consort, Barokksolistene, Ensemble Leones, amongst others. Shen is principal continuo player for Combassal (Ralph Stelzenmüller) and Ensemble Danguy (Tobie Miller), both based in Basel, plays regularly with viol consorts The Earle his Viols and Compass (Basel) and New Vialles (London), and has guested with Phantasm. Caroline’s solo playing has been described by The Times as “ear- catching” and by the south German press as “phenomenal”; her growing discography includes recordings for the Ricercar, Audite, Resonus Classics and Christophorus labels, and she is currently preparing a debut solo recording of the earliest repertoire for the English division viol.
Teaching forms a central part of her musical life. From 2007-2019 she taught viol consort at the Royal Academy of Music, and she is frequently invited as a guest tutor for courses and masterclasses. Caroline is also active in music editing, producing editions for Bärenreiter-Verlag and for Breitkopf und Härtel, and is co-founder of the early much publishing house Septenary Editions.
- Eric Thomas
Eric Thomas is a lutenist based in Edinburgh, and plays with leading ensembles including the Dunedin Consort, Concerto Caledonia, RSNO, New Trinity Baroque, and Dowland Works with Dame Emma Kirkby. He studied jointly at The University of Glasgow and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, under the supervision of John Butt and receiving lute tuition from Jamie Akers. Eric continued his studies at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, studying lute and theorbo with Fred Jacobs, and also attended the Urbino Early Music Festival to study with Paul O’Dette and Dartington International Summer School for lessons with David Miller.
Eric is currently a Phd candidate at the University of Huddersfield, under the supervision of Elizabeth Kenny and Laurie Stras, researching the role of improvisation in early 16th century Italian lute music. Eric is founder of ‘The Spinacino Consort’, which has recently been awarded a Continuo Foundation grant to stage two concerts dedicated to the first female to be published in Scotland, Elizabeth Melville.
- Morag Johnston
Morag Johnston studied at The Royal Conservatoire of The Hague and Hochschule für Kunst, Bremen. She is a founding member of The Brewery Band. In 2021, she began research into ear playing and memorisation at the University of Aberdeen.
Morag is a baroque violinist who performs internationally. Notable projects in 2021 included a tour of Handel’s Rinaldo with the Banquet Celeste; concerts with Ensemble Baroque de Rennes and a tour of Beethoven and Bewald’s Septets with Astrolabe. In France in 2020, she performed Locatelli and Bach as a soloist at Recordara Festival, Nantes. For Musique France and Les Abbayes aux Dames, she recorded The Seven Last Words of Christ with conductor Hervé Niquet.
She plays regularly with Ensemble Baroque de Rennes who bring baroque music to new and wider audiences. In Germany, she regularly works with Hamburg - based ensemble Schirokko. She has performed at Elbphilharmonie, Totnes Early Music Society, with Dutch National Opera Academy and at The Globe Theatre, London. She has appeared at Utrecht Fringe Festival and Edinburgh International Fringe Festival.
A passionate and qualified pedagogue, she has taught at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Conservatoire de Rennes and Huntly Summer School which she co-directed for 10 years. In 2020, she set up the memorisation project Scottish Whispers which teaches folk music by ear to students all over the world. She won the North Nibley Scholarship and, with her ensemble The Brewery Band, The Stroud Green Festival Ensemble Award.