L'Italiana in Algeri

In Italy, in the early 19th century, opera existed for the express purpose of showing off the voice, and the undisputed master of this genre at the time was Gioacchino Rossini. Among his many strengths, Rossini had a deft comedic touch, as evidenced by his classic Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) and Central City Opera's current production of L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers).

Full of satisfying solos, duets, and ensemble work, Algeri is the story of Isabella, an adventurous girl who is kidnapped by Algerian pirates and taken to the lusty Bey (Sultan) of Algiers. In his court she discovers her missing ex-boyfriend, Lindoro, has also been enslaved, and that the Bey wants to dump his wife, Elvira, on Lindoro so he can marry Isabella. The plot unfolds with Isabella, her traveling companion and hapless admirer Taddeo, and Lindoro conspiring to escape.

Photo of Viktoria Vizin as Isabella and Richard Bernstein as Mustafa
Viktoria Vizin as Isabella
and Richard Bernstein as Mustafá
Photo: Mark N. Kiryluk
In her American debut, the tall, attractive mezzo-soprano Viktoria Vizin is scintillating as Isabella, effortlessly tossing off Rossini's playful coloraturas, yet powerful enough to stand out in all the ensembles. Vizin's confident dramatic style is as pleasing as her voice. Together with Metropolitan Opera veteran bass-baritone Richard Bernstein as Mustafá, the Bey of Algiers, they mine every hilarious opportunity.

Photo of Richard Bernstein as Mustafa and Jonathan Hays as Taddeo
Richard Bernstein as Mustafa
and Jonathan Hays as Taddeo
Photo: Mark N. Kiryluk
Tenor Brian Downen, as Lindoro, delights us with his effortless bel canto style and understated humorous approach. Baritone Jonathan Hays' Taddeo is a bemused yet resigned accomplice to Isabella's plotting. The voluptuous Elvira, played by Lorraine Ernest exhibits a fine soprano.

The costumes from the Washington Opera, are a stylish mix of early 20th century European and timeless Arabian wraps. Conductor Hal France sets a pleasant pace with a strong, disciplined orchestra, nurturing Rossini's musical humor, and David Gately's direction takes full comedic advantage of every situation while effectively using the entire stage. Only the cartoonish flavor of the set seems out of synch, easy though it is to ignore in the presence of such consistently fine work.

Central City Opera's L'Italiana in Algeri runs through 10th in repertory with the double bill of I Pagliacci and Goyescas and the world premiere of Gabriel's Daughter. 303-292-6700.

Bob Bows


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