March 21st, 2011

Florentine Opera: L'Italiana In Algeri

Sunday afternoon the 20th, we went to the Marcus Center for the Florentine Opera's production of L'Italiana In Algeri (The Italian Girl In Algiers), by Gioacchino Rossini.

For this presentation, the Florentine hired sets from the University of Indiana, and costumes from Malabar, of Toronto, which worked well together and made the production a candy-colored "Oriental" fantasy that worked well with the light and humorous libretto by Angelo Anelli, and Rossini's infectious music.

The main driver of the comic plot is Mustafa Bey, Turkish Sultan of Algiers (Kevin Glavin), who has grown bored with his loving and loyal wife, Elvira (Erica Schuller), and wants to divorce her in favor of an as yet undetermined "Italian girl." Mustafa is enamored with the idea of the Italians' legendary fire, and thinks he is the man to tame one. He decides that he will instead marry Elvira to his Italian slave, Lindoro (Robert McPherson). His plans go awry when the woman captured by his corsairs turns out to be Isabella, Lindoro's intended (Daniela Mack), who has been searching for him. Isabella is possessed of both fire and guile in ample measures and speedily has Mustafa wondering what hit him as she forbids him to divorce Elvira, has Lindoro appointed her personal servant (the better to plot with him to escape), and has her other erstwhile suitor Taddeo (masquerading as her "uncle") appointed to a high court position, the better to lead Mustafa into her toils.

The Florentine Opera orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Joseph Resigno, gave a very clear and lively reading of the score, commenced with a crisp rendition of the well-known overture. The singers all did very well, in particular Mack and McPherson, both of whom filled Uhlein Hall with rich tones with seemingly little effort. Julia Elise Hardin as Elvira's servant, Zulma, and Scott Johnson as Haly, Mustafa's generally competent lieutenant, were also very good. In fact, Glavin was the weakest voice in the cast, but still not bad, and made up any lacks by his expressive characterization. 

In fact, all of the cast acted well, with stage direction by Skylight Opera Artistic Director William Theisen keeping clowning and stage business at a more or less constant level that was enough to be interesting, but not so much as to be distracting, although the all-out production number that ended the first act was the most shameless fun I have seen on an opera stage in years. Daniel Belcher as Taddeo vied with Glavin for the position of chief clown, getting numerous laughs with his Groucho-like repertoire of poses and gestures. 

Ms. Schuller, Ms. Hardin, and Mr. Johnson are all members of the Florentine Opera Studio program, which speaks very well for that program, and I look forward to seeing more from them in the future.

All in all, an afternoon at the opera that was purely enjoyable.  This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.