[Met Performance] CID:350904
L'Italiana in Algeri {63} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/13/2004.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 13, 2004


L'ITALIANA IN ALGERI [63]
Rossini-Anelli

Isabella...................Olga Borodina
Lindoro....................Juan Diego Flórez
Taddeo.....................Earle Patriarco
Mustafà....................Ferruccio Furlanetto
Elvira.....................Lyubov Petrova
Zulma......................Sandra Piques Eddy
Haly.......................Mariusz Kwiecien

Conductor..................James Levine

Production.................Jean-Pierre Ponnelle
Stage Director.............David Kneuss
Designer...................Jean-Pierre Ponnelle
Associate Designer.........David Reppa

L'Italiana in Algeri received nine performances this season.

Production photos of L'Italiana in Algeri by Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera

Review of Judith Malafronte in the May 2004 issue of OPERA NEWS

For its revival of Rossini's "L'Italiana in Algeri," the Metropolitan Opera attempted an unlikely march for its leading couple, pairing Juan Diego Flórez (prince of bel canto) with Olga Borodina (queen of tragic sultriness), and scored a triumph. Who knew - well, obviously, someone at the Met - that the dramatic mezzo-soprano had enough comic assurance and vocal magnificence to command this new territory even as Isabella, the new girl in the harem, masters her unexpected situation?

Clear and snappy playing throughout the overture, from its [beginning] pianissimo chords, promised musical delights to come, and James Levine followed through, delivering a detailed, energetic performance (heard on February 13) with gleeful grace and ease. But until the Pier 1 delivery truck arrives with colorful carpets and a potted palm or two, the threadbare sets and tired staging leave this thirty-year-old Jean-Pierre Ponnelle production a dramatic bust.

Quivering derrieres of prostrate harem slaves and the sinking of a miniature Italian ship via cannonball get the expected laughs, but aside from the comic-book atmosphere and a couple of sight gags (the mezzo clapping her hand over the soprano's mouth after one high C too many), most of the delights come, appropriately, from the work's effervescent musical wit. The nearly demented triangle playing in the overture found its match in the Act I finale's "din din," "tac tac" and "bum bum"s, as the characters express utter confusion over the plot developments (with Borodina's crossed eyes right out of "I Love Lucy").

The singing, from the entire cast, was dazzling. For Lindoro's Act II aria, Flórez substituted Rossini's superior "Concedi, amor pietoso" and handled the twists, turns and high-flying phrases of the cabaletta, "Voce che tenera," with amazing ease. Having nailed the hard stuff, by the middle of Act II he relaxed considerably as an actor, and as master of ceremonies for the "Pappataci" drubbing he was sprightly and endearing.

Borodina was the surprise of the evening, charmingly poised and vocally impressive, not only in the voluptuous and excruciatingly slow "Per lui che adoro" (here even more effective with cello rather than flute solo) but in the virtuoso moments, where her plummy resonance filled out Rossini's rangy runs, leaps, trills and roulades with gorgeous warmth. In addition, she made Isabella a flesh-and-blood character, wise, sexy and attractively self-assured. As the would-be womanizer Mustafà, the vocally commanding Ferruccio Furlanetto showed off a hairy chest straight out of "Austin Powers," while Earle Patriarco was a youthful Taddeo, in excellent voice and adorable in wire-rimmed glasses. Lyubov Petrova and Mariusz Kwiecien were fine as Elvira and Haly, although Haly's boring aria "Le feminine d'Italia" (not by Rossini) was one of several pieces that needed a quicker tempo and a more nimble staging.



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