As the Rossini biographer Stendhal puts it, “Rossini is always amusing, Mozart never; Mozart is like a mistress who is always serious and often sad, but whose very sadness is a fascination, discovering ever deeper springs of love”. Il Turco in Italia feels very much like a Mozart-Da Ponte opera with the controlling Don Alfonso-esque baritone role, the mistaken identities and rife adultery. But, as Stendhal writes, Rossini’s music is always light and fun throughout, skipping on any sad emotions that appear in Mozart. Because of this, and compared with more well known Rossini operas, Il Turco in Italia does not quite reach the dramatic climax it seeks. Nevertheless it is a sweet and charming little jewel of Rossini’s operatic oeuvre.
This production, now revived for the third time, is full of passion and fun. There is some great buffo acting on show, in particular from jilted lover and husband combo Don Narciso (Barry Banks) and Don Geronio (Alessandro Corbelli). At times the comedy is slightly overcooked, but for the most part it is an enjoyable, albeit rather trivial, ride through an evening of Rossini.
Thomas Allen, in the intriguing role of Prosdocimo the poet, plays a meta character who interacts with the audience and seeks to write down, and ultimately meddles with, the happenings of the plot in order to create his own comic opera. This is a perfect role for Allen, now in the twilight of his singing career; his performance is deftly characterised and the physical comedy precise and successful. In addition, Jette Parker Young Artists Rachel Kelly (Zaida) and Luis Gomes (Albazar) shine in their relatively small principal roles. There is great vocal quality throughout the cast and special mention should go to the Royal Opera House orchestra who, under the baton of Evelino Pido, brought real subtlety and nuance to Rossini’s bouncing music.
This production is evocative of others by the directorial duo Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser. The lovely bold and rich colours of the set and lighting and the simple presentation matches another revival at ROH this season: Madama Butterfly. I feel this is the more successful of the revivals as it still has the energy and charm that all Rossini operas must have. This production is musically communicated to the audience very successfully. The great depth of colour and dynamic versatility brought out from the singers and the orchestra under the baton of Pido is the most enjoyable element of this production.
Il Turco in Italia is playing at the Royal Opera House until 25 April. For tickets and more information, see the Royal Opera House website. Photo by Tristram Kenton.