The Italian Girl in Algiers

Italian Girl

The Italian Girl in Algiers

Atlanta Opera

through May 5, 2013

It is wonderful to experience how much our Opera company has grown over these past years, to the point where it is truly world quality. Their year ends with one of the funniest of the dramma giocoso works, wherein everything that could go astray does so, and with great aplomb.

The production has been moved into the 20th century, and is a great visual delight. Rossini would have enjoyed seeing his Isabella as a real civettawho knows what a guy wants and how to make him think he’s going to get it. Sandra Piques Eddy is a delight as Isabella. She can play the vamp easily. In this newer version she’s wearing slacks, which Rossini would never have seen on a woman. You’ll also see somebody reading a magazine which didn’t exist then, an airplane that was well before Wilbur & Orville hit the clouds, and I don’t think any of the ladies wore page boys in Gioachino’s days.

Rossini wrote this opus in 1813 when he was only 21 years old, and he claimed to done the whole job in less than three weeks. It’s always been well received, and while watching the performance I could not help but think that he must have been a favorite of Gilbert & Sullivan, whose works started pouring out some 60 years later. And this one was spot-on for venues such as L’Opera Comique, where the crowds adored it. And finally, it has premiered right here in our home town. Voila!

The story is one you can easily research online. There’s a horny Bey Mustafa (a Bey was a Turkish-style chieftain) who wanted to get rid of his wife, Elvira (Ashley Emerson) and take on some Italian gal. He figured they were hot. Burak Bilgili is powerful as the all-powerful Bey. In Act 2, he looks a bit like Saddam Hussein. Lindoro (Michele Angelini) is the Italiano who was enamored of Isabella and searching for her, before he got captured and made a slave. And Taddeo (Bruno Practico) provides a lot of the comedy as the other suitor who winds up playing the role as the uncle of Isabella.

The plot twists and turns, but the principal object is to get the captives out of Algiers and back to Italy. How best to do that? Get Mustafa and his gang to become pappatacis who are obliged to eat, drink, remain silent, and sleep it off. Mustafa figures he is a “natural” and he takes the solemn oath. The Italians hit the road; Mustafa hears what happens and calls for his gang, but they are all soused. What’s a guy to do? He begs Elvira for her forgiveness and the curtain comes down.

The set by Robert Innes Hopkins works splendidly and was first used by the Santa Fe Opera company. You’ll love when the book opens up for you, and I am not going to spoil anything for you by suggesting that you have never seen anybody bathe in an opera as well as Isabella does with the aid of her attendants. No wonder this one has legs.

You don’t need to know every twist and turn, because you can read the super titles; and like most operas, it is a bit off the wall. This is a grand finale to the year and will be performed only April 27, 30 and May 3 and 5. So for more info and tickets and times you can visit their website at AtlantaOpera.org