ll Turco in Italia

Giachino Rossini, libretto by Felice Romani
Teatro Real, Madrid
Teatro Real, Madrid, Spain

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Il Turco in Italia

Giachino Rossini, who boasted he could set a laundry list to music, wrote nearly forty operas. ll Turco in Italia, an early opera buffa, dates from 1814 when he was 22 years old. Directed by Laurent Pelly, conducted by Giacomo Sagripanti and designed by Chantal Thomas, it gets a modern, suburban sitcom update with big photographs and the cast looking as if they had stepped out of a 1950s magazine. The performances are cartoonish.

Fiorilla, capricious and fickle, is described by her husband as crazy and bizarre. Married for nearly six years, she is bored stiff. “It’s mad to love only one person,” she declares. Fortuitously, a Turkish prince arrives out of the blue and he and she instantly start flirting.

Lisette Oropesa has a strong comic personality and her vocal expertise, plus her stamina, particularly in her final aria, delights the audience so much, they stop the show with their applause so she can take take a curtain call.

The lead singers, often stepping in and out of hung picture frames, are physically and vocally funny. Mischa Kiria is the burly husband (played much younger than usual) and he has a fine duet and solo. Edgardo Rocha is the platonic lover. Alex Esposito, bald, bearded, bare-chested, is the smitten Turk, who has his own special comic body language and walk.

Florian Sempey is the scruffy poet, who wants to write a comedy but is suffering from writer’s block. He observes and makes notes, manipulating the characters in a way which anticipates what Pirandello did in Six Characters in Search of an Author a century later.

The chorus (not a single gypsy amongst them) plays a lively role. Laurent Pelly, constantly inventive throughout, keeps them on the move in a tight block, running on and off, and once effectively creating quite a rumpus.

The production is a lot of fun and can be viewed free on the Arte TV channel.

Reviewer: Robert Tanitch

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