Sunday 18 April 2010

Review of Il Turco in Italia

Amazingly it is 5 years since the Royal Opera last performed Rossini's Il Turco in Italia and this was the first revival of Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier's 1950's inspired production. More particularly it is inspired by 1950's Italian films.

Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak has stepped into the Sophia Loren-like role of Fiorilla. She has a very different voice than Cecilia Bartoli who sang the role when the production was new. Kurzak sang Rossini's elaborate lines more naturalistically, her performance didn't have the quotation marks around it that you felt with Bartolli. Kurzak's Fiorilla was pert and sunny, insoucicant and charming. At first I found her performance a little understated, but it grew on me and her final aria was a moving tour de force.

Colin Lee as Don Narciso was also new to the cast. Lee sang with a lightness and freedom in the top range which seemed new in his voice. He seemed relaxed in the role, despite suffering from the after effects of Gastric Flu, and this showed not only in his acting but in the warmth of his voice.

The 3rd new member of the cast was Leah-Marian Jones as Zaide, a relatively small but important role. Jones turned in a performance which was outstanding, both supportive and musical.

The remainder of the principals were returning to their roles. 5 years on Thomas Allen's voice is showing hints of age, but he is still a consumate artist and brought a charming world weariness to the poet Prosdocimo, who opens the show trying to find a subject for his opera libretto and spends the remainder of the opera trying to turn the opera's participants into an opera plot.

As Don Geronio, Fiorella's elderly husband, Alessandro Corbelli gave a masterclass in how to sing Rossini, have fun and be funny. And he formed a superb double act with Allen.

Ildebrando d'Arcangelo was suitably saturnine and dashingly attractive as the Turk Selim. But he didn't just look good, he sounded good as well. D'Arcangelo brought a beautifully focussed bass tone to the role. He displayed little buffo bluff and bluster, instead actually singing Rossini's notes. He seems to be taking care of his voice, his roles centring on Mozart and Italian bel canto and it shows.

Steven Ebel, one of the current Jette Parker young artists, sang Albazar, a small bu important role.

Maurizio Benini conducted. He had the measure of this score and conjured sparkling singing and playing from singers and orchestra. But I felt that he was a little too relaxed and indulgent, particularly in the long first act, and that a little more urgency was needed.

This was definitely a case of the revival being as good as the original. We got some superb music making and above all everyone on stage seemed to be having fun.

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