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L’Italiana In Algeri review at Garsington Opera – ‘fails to hit the spot’

Ezgi Kutlu and company in an L'Italiana in Algeri at Garsington Opera. Photo: Johan Persson Ezgi Kutlu and company in an L'Italiana in Algeri at Garsington Opera. Photo: Johan Persson
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Rossini’s early comedy The Italian Girl in Algiers is the least sophisticated of his full-scale works, yet its themes of culture clash and the battle of the sexes provide plenty of material for a skilled director to articulate. Now stepping into the operatic arena, choreographer Will Tuckett seems aware of the potential pitfalls of the piece but in practice this show doesn’t hit the spot in either musical or comic terms.

Partly this is due to a cast none of whom really sparkle in the main roles. It’s a nice touch to have Turkish soprano Ezgi Kutlu play the title role of the Italian Girl Isabella, who takes on and defeats the sexist attitudes of Mustafa, Bey of Algiers, and her rich, fruity voice is an asset: but she’s not always vocally exact and never quite maintains the centre of attention. Dutch baritone Quirijn de Lang is regularly a fine artist, but as Mustafa he’s deliberately cast against vocal type and it doesn’t work.

As Isabella’s lover Lindoro Brazilian tenor Luciano Botelho needs more fluency and beauty of tone at the top of his range. Riccardo Novaro makes a muted impact as Taddeo, Isabella’s elderly Italian admirer. Mary Bevan struggles to create something positive out of Elvira, the wife Mustafa is trying to cast off.

George Souglides’s glitzy unit set comprises a couple of staircases that provide a platform for what is, given Tuckett’s background, some oddly tentative dancing. Where you would expect the company to rise to some show-stopping routines, they fail to materialise.

Conductor David Parry has presided over umpteen Garsington Rossini revivals, but there are too many limp and untidy moments in this one. Altogether, on this occasion the champagne has gone a bit flat.

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The Italian Girl fails to hit the spot at Garsington