Pesaro's new offering in 2013 was an off-the-wall production of Rossini's popular comedy, ‘The Italian Girl in Algiers', presented as a Swinging Sixties, James Bond adventure, set in the desert oil fields of the North African coast. Davide Livermore's gag-a-minute, helter-skelter romp followed an alarmingly life-like air-crash, which delivered the ‘Italian girl' from Rome into the clutches of the local oil baron, Mustafa. All three lead singers (Alex Esposito as Mustafa, the high tenor Yijie Shi as the young lover Lindoro, and Anna Goryachova as the agile-voiced mezzo-soprano of the title role) thoroughly distinguished themselves – and the audience roared its approval of the evening's entertainment.
“Horne is the great star focus…She is predictably brilliant in the coloratura passages, with her commanding presence not getting in the way of a sense of fun…The production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle is brightly attractive, and the direction is at the service of the performance. Levine conducts with characteristic energy.” Penguin Guide
Recordings of Rossini’s first full-length comic opera are coming thick and fast at present. Already this year Sony has re-issued, in the Opera House series, their 1979 recording featuring Lucia Valentini-Terrani. There is also a new live recording for review from Naxos. Recorded at Bad Wildbad in 2008 it features the new tenor find Lawrence Brownlee, making waves in Rossini at New York’s Metropolitan, alongside the admired Italian diva Marianna Pizzolato in the title role; Rossini scholar and conductor Alberto Zedda is on the rostrum.
Robert J Farr
This is the best orchestration of this opera: The best brilliant one, the most exciting recording. But is so fast in moments when the singers should have a little freedom to demonstrate their virtuosism. The Scimone, with Ramey and Horne, recording do that, and the little video of Weikert, with Doris Soffel. The recitatives are cold, Baltsa only shows her power in the Rondo "Pensa alla Patria", Dara is not too afraid in his aria "Ho un gran pesso", etc. Only Lopardo and Raimondi are fenomenal, being Raimondi the best Mustafà in the aria "Gia d'insolito" i ever heard. But, don't be wrong, if it doesn't have virtuosism, it is the best recording (i'm not say that, everybody does it).
Rossini's wonderful comic opera, written when he was only 21, to an Italian libretto by Angelo Anelli, was first performed in Venice on May 22, 1813. Since then audiences have thrilled to such mezzos as Teresa Berganza and Marilyn Horne, in the title role of Isabella, the Italian girl who torments the Pasha into loving his own wife. Here rising star Christianne Stotijn, a BBC Young Generation Artist, moves into new repertoire in this production from Aix-en Provence, 2006, conducted by Rossini specialist Riccarda Frizza and directed by Toni Servillo.
Arthaus presents a production of Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri by renowned opera stage director Andrei Serban and conducted by Bruno Campanella from the prestigious Opéra National de Paris.
The excellent cast of singer-actors was led by international mezzo-star Jennifer Larmore who, with her unaffected contact with the audience, beautiful voice and excellent acting, is central to this staging. The American singer has acquired a reputation as a Rossini specialist, and is no stranger to inventive stagings of the composer’s comedies…
"…The opera is set in 272 AD in the ancient city of Palmyra (modern Syria), where the queen, Zenobia and her lover, the Persian general, Arsace are defeated in battle by the Roman Emperor Aureliano. Aureliano agrees to free Arsace if Zenobia will give herself to him but she refuses. Eventually, he is won over by the lovers’ devotion, freeing them when they pledge loyalty to Rome. On the way to this happy ending, there is plenty of extreme emotion to fire-up some of Rossini’s most exciting vocal writing."
The singing is superb, especially from Horne, here giving one of her best DVD performances. The excellent Rossini tenor Douglas Ahlstedt deserves a mention too. As Mustafa, Paolo Montarsolo sometimes finds the part a little challenging vocally (who wouldn't!), but he is hilarious and very well suited to the role. Levine's conducting makes the music simply sparkle. I can't really fault this set.
By Mrs. E. Watts