[Met Performance] CID:73230
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
L'Italiana in Algeri {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/5/1919.
 (Metropolitan Opera Premiere)

Metropolitan Opera House
December 5, 1919
Metropolitan Opera Premiere


Isabella................Gabriella Besanzoni
Lindoro.................Charles Hackett
Taddeo..................Giuseppe De Luca
Mustafŗ.................Adamo Didur
Elvira..................Marie Sundelius
Zulma...................Kathleen Howard
Haly....................Millo Picco

Act II divertissement arranged by Rosina Galli, music from Rossini's "Moses in Egypt"
a. Dance Orientale: Corps de ballet
b. Variations: Rosina Galli, Giuseppe Bonfiglio
c. Ensemble, Finale: Rosina Galli, Giuseppe Bonfiglio, and Corps de ballet

Conductor...............Gennaro Papi

Director................Richard Ordynski
Designer................Willy Pogany
Choreographer...........Rosina Galli

L'Italiana in Algeri received four performances this season.

[The ballet added to Act II utilized music from Rossini's MosŤ in Egitto.]

Alternate titles: Italiana; The Italian Girl in Algiers.

Review of Max Smith in the New York American

Reaching back more than a hundred years Giulio Gatti-Casazza resuscitated last night in the Metropolitan Opera House Gioacchino Rossini's "L'Italiana in Algeri," an opera buffa in two acts (now divided into three), which had probably not been heard here for half a century. The general manager's principal motive, presumably, in reviving a work almost obsolete was to provide his new contralto, Gabriella Besanzoni, with a role that would disclose to advantage her mellow voice and her pleasing personality.

He gave her the support of Adamo Didur, who demonstrated his extraordinary versatility once more in an inimitable portrayal of the comically pompous Mustafa; of Giuseppe de Luca who devoted his talents to Taddeo, hopeless suitor and fictitious uncle of the stranded damsel, and of Charles Hackett, who tried valiantly to cope with the high tessitura of Lindoro, favored of the fair as tenors usually are. He provided, moreover, prettily Oriental scenery and costumes designed by Willy Pogany and he introduced into the second act an elaborate ballet borrowed from Rossini's Parisian version of "Mose in Egitto," which had its first production in 1827, that is fourteen years after the premiere of "L'Italiana."

Contraltos are not often versed in the mysteries of florid song. Nor can it be said that Mme. Besanzoni's training fit her well for that task. The beauty of her low tones is not to be questioned when she resists the temptation to force them-a habit that tends to drive them below the correct pitch. Their timbre is peculiarly warm and velvety even down to A natural. Moreover, Mme. Besanzoni can rise without difficulty into the high altitudes when occasion demands. But her knowledge of bel canto is limited; not to say rudimentary; and she has not acquired a command of legato, which is an essential element of good singing.

In "L'Italiana in Algeri," even the heavy and bombastic Mustafa, proto type of Dr. Bartolo in "The Barber," must perforce indulge in rapid scales and fiorituri. In his case, however, the effect is obviously intended to be ludicrous as indeed it is with Didur as the Bey.
The part of Lindoro, with a tessitura as high as Isabella is low, asks for a tenor of Alessandro Bonci's voice and schooling. But Charles Hackett acquitted himself creditably of a trying task in the Cavatina of the first act, and was spared the effort of singing the second Cavatina, which, with many other pages of the score had been mercifully cut.

The famous "Papataci" terzetto in the last act, sung and acted capitally by Hackett, Didur, and De Luca (the three lovers), caused a great deal of amusement, and did also the farcical septet in the second act (or what was originally the Finale of the first act) with its grotesque exclamations, performed by the whole cast, including Marie Sundelius as Elvira, discarded wife of the Bey; Kathleen Howard as Zulma, cofidential slave of Elvira, and Millo Picco as Haly, captain of the Algerian Cormari. Gennaro Papi, who had prepared and rehearsed the musical ensemble, conducted with merit. But the orchestral accompaniment might well have been somewhat tighter.

Review of Richard Aldrich in The New York Times

The opera, like others of Rossini's early operas, has a contralto as protagonist. Isabella is the part of Mme. Besanzoni, the new Italian contralto of the company, whose talent does not seem to be so decisively for this style as for that of "Aida," in which she first appeared. Neither the quality of her voice nor the dexterity of her vocal art in her solos was wholly satisfactory; yet she showed skill and humor in the comedy, even if not the lightest touch, as an imperious and resourceful lady thoroughly mistress of the situation.

The singer most at home in the opera was Mr. De Luca, who gave an admirable impersonation of Taddeo, full of drollery, and in voice, both in airs and in his crisp and rapid delivery of the recitative, excellent. Mr. Didur made a capital study of the gluttonous bey, Mustafa, into which he put unctuous and farcical by-play, doubtless in the right vein; his voice gave him some trouble in the passages requiring agility. Mr. Hackett's Lindoro was presented with spirit, not always with beauty of voice or vocal style; and Mmes. Sundelius and Howard, made acceptable representatives of Elvira and Zulma.

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