This performance has been in the catalogue for a while and
is now released in tandem with Il Barbieri di Siviglia from the
same sources. Arthaus is now issuing this pair of recordings as a two
DVD box at a reduced price. Sometimes offers such as these are very much
curate’s eggs, but this pair is excellent. If you wish to have both these
operas on DVD, don’t hesitate – they are well worth having.
Set in a very small theatre, there is a very intimate
feel to the performance and the sets, being more expansive than those
required for Il Barbiere, seem a little more cramped, but this
is never a problem. The performance sparkles and sizzles so that the
cramped sets do not seem a hardship. In fact, I suspect that they were
designed extremely well to fit in the restricted space. The only time
I felt that the action was at least compromised was when the ship taking
our heroine back to Italy, ran out of space when moving from left to
right and out of sight, except it didn’t – it ran out of harbour, leaving
part of the stern stationary as the curtain came down.
Our ethnic cast, suitably tanned out of a bottle, or
sun bed – take your pick, performs brilliantly as a team, in fact better
than the cast a year later on the companion set for The Barber.
The end of Act 1, one of Rossini’s best and well known patter songs
is performed brilliantly, with all members of the cast making the most
of the comedy, and brilliant music provided for them.
The orchestra, under a suitably tanned Ralf Weikert,
play extremely well, but not with quite the life that it had the year
before under Gabriele Ferro. I suppose this is one of the drawbacks
of getting this pair of DVDs in a pack, Not only does one judge the
performances against others, but also since they are both comic Rossini
operas, there is a risk of comparing one with the other.
The plot, is not as good as the masterly adaptation
of Beaumarchais’s comedy by Cesare Sterbini. L’Italiana in Algeri
is about the wife of the bey, Elvira, who, fearing that her husband,
Mustafa, no longer loves her, is persuaded by the eunuchs et al that
she should accept her lot as it is the woman’s fate to be in this situation.
Mustafa has decided that he wishes to have an Itailan woman, and as
luck would have it, as always happens in operas, a ship from Italy is
miraculously wrecked on the coast. Out of this ship is rescued Isabella
who is immediately seen to be a prospective candidate. Mustafa, in order
to have his Italian woman must get rid of his wife, and therefore persuades
Lindoro, a prisoner to flee to Venice with his wife. Lindoro has previously
been sought by Isabella which is why she was on the ship. When they
see each other you can imagine what happens to Mustafa’s plan.
After much to-ing and fro-ing, deceptions and plotting,
the opera concludes in a riot, with the ship, flying the Italian flag,
unable to leave the stage because of the constricted space. Great fun,
beautifully sung, played recorded and filmed – excellent value with