One of Rossini’s most exquisite successes, from a composer who was just 21 at the time: an opera buffa which has retained all its charm and humour, to as score as fresh today as it was then and characters who seem to have been born yesterday. The beautiful Isabella sails off to Algiers in search of her lover Lindoro, held prisoner by the tyrant Mustafa. However, the ship runs aground and the adventure begins... There are pirates, a seraglio, eunuchs, a palace by the sea, and the whole range of all things Turkish still in vogue during the early years of the 19th century. There are also some beautiful and brilliant arias with a virtuosity that was Rossini's hallmark. Above all, there is the madness which he knew how to infuse into his theatre, the sudden malfunction of the machine he himself had created, as in the crazy finale of the first act where the grand ensemble degenerates into a delirious concert of onomatopoeias.
Palais Garnier - First performance on 31 March 2014 - 7:30PM
Ticket rates : 10€, 25€, 45€, 70€, 115€, 140€, 185€
Running time : 2H55 with one interval
Libretto by ANGELO ANELLI
|Andrei Serban||Stage director|
|Marina Draghici||Sets and costumes|
|Alessandro Di Stefano||Chorus master|
Nahuel Di Pierro
SPONSOR OF L’ITALIANA IN ALGERI
Gioacchino Rossini was born in Pesaro on 29 February 1792 and died in Passy on 13 November 1868. The son of musicians (his father played the horn and his mother sang in travelling opera troupes), Rossini himself worked on singing and harmony in Bologna under the iron rod of Mattei. At the age of eighteen, his first opera buffa, La cambiale di matrimonio, was performed in Venice. It was soon followed by other works in the same genre (L’Inganno felice, L’occasione fa il ladro, etc.). In 1813 the creation of Tancredi in Venice opened wide the doors of success making him the uncontested master of the Italian operatic stage for many years to come. Works followed one another at breakneck speed : amongst others Il barbiere di Siviglia and Otello in 1816, La Cenerentola and Armida in 1817, La donna del lago in 1819, Maometto II in 1821 and Semiramide in 1823. In 1824 he settled in Paris. It was here that he wrote his last opera, Guillaume Tell (1829), and lived until his death, continuing to influence Parisian musical life and devoting himself to certain passions such as cuisine (we owe him the famous “tournedos” recipe).
Rossini received a last-minute commission to compose L’Italiana in Algeri in an attempt to save the 1831 season at the Teatro San Benedetto in Venice which had got off to a very bad start. Since the composer had only 27 days to write his new opera he used a libretto written by Angelo Anelli which had already been put to music five years earlier for Milan by Luigi Mosca. Rossini was to modify it somewhat, eliminating the over-sentimental passages that did not correspond to his idea of farce. But his main transformation consisted of adding to the First Finale, the Quintet and the second act Trio (the famous “Pappataci” !) onomatopoeia and nonsense which emphasise the work’s rhythmic exuberance and push the comic deformation of the words to new heights. The music thus freed from all constraints of words and sense becomes as Stendhal put it “organised madness”.
L’Italiana in Algeri also echoes the orientalism so fashionable in the arts of the time which had given birth to Molière’s Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Voltaire’s Zadig and Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail. But the Orient only provides a backdrop and it is the Italian woman, vigorously defended in the person of Isabella, that the composer celebrates in this work. Moreover, breaking entirely with convention, it is her fiancé who is held captive in the seraglio and it is she who rescues him. Of all Rossini’s operas this is certainly the most deliberately preposterous and the most improbable.
The first performance
L’Italiana in Algeri was first performed on 22 May 1813 at the Teatro San Benedetto in Venice.
The work at the Paris OperaL’Italiana in Algeri was first performed at the Palais Garnier on 2 April 1930 by the Conchita Supervia Lyric Company, with Conchita Supervia in the role of Isabella. In April 1998, the work has been performed in a production by Andrei Serban, with Jennifer Larmore (Isabella), Simone Alaimo (Mustafa), Bruce Ford (Lindoro) and Jeannette Fischer (Elvira), under the direction of Bruno Campanella. Il is this production, already revived in 2000, 2004 and 2010 with Vesselina Kasarova ans Vivica Genaux in the title-role, which is being presented again.