[Met Performance] CID:263580
L'Italiana in Algeri {34} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/11/1981.


Metropolitan Opera House
February 11, 1981


Isabella................Marilyn Horne
Lindoro.................Rockwell Blake
Taddeo..................Sesto Bruscantini
MustafÓ.................Ara Berberian
Elvira..................Kathleen Battle
Zulma...................Nedda Casei
Haly....................Allan Monk

Conductor...............Nicola Rescigno

Review of Patrick J. Smith in Opera (UK)

The Metropolitan Opera's revival of its 1973 production of "L'Italiana in Algeri" had a number of felicities, not the least being that all participants (save perhaps the conductor) appeared to be having a good time, and that sense of innocent fun communicated itself to the audience. Marilyn Horne is more at ease in comic parts, which she plays with arch humour, but also with a twinkle, and if her mezzo coloratura has always had about it an aura of lifelessness in its case of technique, this is lessened when combined with her comic talents. It must be said, however, that at slow tempos the lower part of her voice is now quite insecure as to pitch, and thus a grand aria like "Pensa alla patria" becomes more an aural trial than a pleasure.

The Met took this opportunity to perform the new Rossini Foundation critical edition of the score, which involves numerous changes in orchestration, the first of which occurs in the first page of the overture, and the most obvious being the substitution of piccolos for flutes in several spots.

The supporting cast was notable more for comedy than for refinement of singing, although Kathleen Battle's radiant Elvira is another vocal gem from this most promising artist. Rockwell Blake, in his house debut as Lindero, sang on the night 1 heard the opera (February 10) with a great deal more freedom than usual. For once the voice did not close at the top, and although the sounds he makes cannot be classed as beautiful, he can sing, and sing accurately, the fiendish coloratura of the first-act entrance aria, and he is an appealing figure on stage. If he can finally master the intricacies of coloratura, he will make a contribution to bel-canto singing, for although his voice lacks the mellifluous charm of a Valletti or a Schipa at their best, it possesses qualities those two singers never had.

Ara Berberian (Mustafa) managed his coloratura decently, if sounding like a gravel-mixer, and his over-acting of the batty Bey - in particular his conception of how to grate Parmesan cheese - was often diverting. It was a real pleasure finally to see the ageless Sesto Bruscantini on the Met stage, as Taddeo.

Sonja Frisell's refurbishing of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's original staging relied heavily on the broadest of comedy, to the dismay of those who prefer china-doll Rossini, but if moments were overdone this work, with its "commedia dell'arte" overtones, can be treated in the slam-bang manner. It is a pity that the electricity of the events on stage was not communicated to the orchestra pit, where Nicola Rescigno conducted with heavy-handed tameness so that, for instance, the great first-act finale did not explode like a rocket. For the first act, moreover, he was rarely in synchronization with the singers; quite odd for a conductor who has devoted so much time to opera.

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