L'Italiana in Algeri

Dicapo Opera Theatre's 2008-2009 Season

September 11-14 2008: The Crucible
October 10-18 2008: Turandot
December 13-21 2008: Fantastic Mr. Fox
January 16-17 2009: Lily
February 19- March 1 2009: Šárka/La mort de Sainte Alméenne
April 16-19 2009: L'Italiana in Algieri

Next season includes a world premiere of Kurt Weill's Lily and the US premieres of Janácek's Šárka and Honegger's La mort de Sainte Alméenne. Dicapo has also commissioned Francesco Cilluffo to write The Mortara Case, to be performed in the 2009-2010 season.

Press Release | Official Site

Pittsburgh Opera's 2008-2009 Season

October 18-26 2008: Samson et Dalila
November 15-23 2008: The Grapes of Wrath
February 7-15 2009: Don Pasquale
March 28- April 5 2009: La Bohème
May 2-10 2009: L'Italiana in Algeri

Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe is singing Dalila, which should be interesting. Vivica Genaux and William Burden sing the lead roles in L'Italiana, as they did in San Francisco a few seasons ago, and it is the same cute Santa Fe production as we saw here. Former Adler Fellow Sean Pannikar will sing Jim Casy in The Grapes of Wrath.

Official Site | Post-Gazette Article | Tribune-Review Article

Opera Company of Philadelphia's 2008-2009 Season

October 10-24 2008: Fidelio
November 14-23 2008: L'Italiana in Algeri
February 20- March 6 2009: Turandot
April 24- May 3 2009: L'enfant et les sortilèges/Gianni Schicchi
June 5-14 2009: The Rape of Lucretia

Nathan Gunn and William Burden will be singing in The Rape of Lucretia.

Press Release | Official Site

Dallas Opera's 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 Seasons

November 14-22 2008: Le Nozze Di Figaro
December 5-13 2008: Die Fledermaus
January 23-21 2009: Roberto Devereux
February 13-21 2009: La Bohème
March 6-14 2009: L'Italiana in Algeri

James Valenti is having his Dallas Opera debut as Rodolfo. William Burden is singing Lindoro in L'Italiana in Algeri, in the production San Francisco Opera audiences saw in 2005, directed by Chris Alexander. The Fledermaus production from Seattle Opera, last performed there in 2006, was also produced by Alexander.

The 2009-2010 season was announced today:

October 2009: Otello
February 2010: Così fan tutte
February/March 2010: Don Pasquale
Late April 2010: Moby-Dick
May 2010: Madama Butterfly

The new Winspear Opera House will be open by then. Most interesting in this inaugural season is the world premiere of Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick, conducted by Patrick Summers and starring Ben Heppner. The work is a co-commission and co-production with San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera, and Calgary Opera.

Press Release [PDF]

Sundry Performance Notes

Yesterday someone pulled the fire alarm at just ten minutes before curtain time for the last performance of L'Italiana. Everyone filed out in an orderly fashion, but it took quite a long time to get back inside and settled in again. During the performance I wanted to note that in Act II, Vivica Genaux does a pivot with floreos where Olga Borodina did a cute head slide gesture that went with the music better. Also I would like to remember how nicely William Burden and Ricardo Herrera danced throughout, but especially when they are explaining to Mustafà about the Papatacci, their dance that involved pesk horns at the end was charming.

The latter part of Act II bears a striking resemblance to parts of Così fan tutte. The scene in which Isabella sings "Pensa alla patria" has a choral part like "Bella vita militar!" When Taddeo gives Mustafà the oath of the Papatacci, "Di veder e non veder," it is somewhat like the scene Così where Despina pretends to be the notary.

Additionally, Patrick Stewart was at the symphony the night before last. I believe he had a box. He probably couldn't hear Leon Fleisher's vocalizing from so far away. Though the acoustics at Davies are rather special.

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The alternate in the title role for San Francisco opera's production of L'Italiana in Algeri is excellent. I was not impressed by mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux in Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria, but I think her voice is better suited to something airy and light like L'Italiana. Her voice was incredible in the role of Isabella, her ornamentation was good and her bird-like voice is prettier than Borodina's. Genaux does seem more awkward than Borodina, almost boyish, she doesn't have that swagger and sass. Also to be noted, the other alternate, bass Dean Peterson, was pretty good as Mustafà, but still not perfect.

I was glad to see that some of the choreography was changed to suit Genaux and Peterson, it makes more sense than forcing them to do movement that worked perfectly on Borodina and Abdrazakov. For example, at the end of Act I when Isabella is first presented to Mustafà, Borodina slyly steals Mustafà's turban and pushes him off his velvet throne. On the other hand, tiny Genaux could not carry this off, so instead she climbs on the throne and and steals the turban from there. Genaux does not quite have the same confidence in movement as Borodina, but she did rather well, considering she is an opera singer, and Borodina certainly is an exception.

The performance solidified my admiration for tenor William Burden, his voice is certainly worth hearing again.

L'Italiana in Algeri

The production of Rossini's The Italian Girl in Algiers currently at San Francisco Opera belongs to Santa Fe Opera, where it was premiered in 2002. The style of director Christopher Alexander is possibly more suited to this comic opera. The last opera he directed at San Francisco was Turandot in 2002, which looked like something from the circus, but this can be squarely blamed on David Hockney's lurid set and costumes. The set of L'Italiana was designed by Robert Innes Hopkins, and consisted mainly of a huge pop-up book with one scene of arcades. Also included was a crashing plane and hot air balloons. The costumes, designed by David C. Woolard, were from 1920. The choreography throughout was done quite well, and all of the singers were proficient at movement, they performed splendidly.

As for singing, mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina, as Isabella, was in good form. Her voice is strong, dark, and piercing. At times it is slightly breathy. Tenor William Burden was impressive as Lindoro, his first aria "Languir per una bella" was excellent, his tone exceedingly sweet and sufficiently loud. Bass lldar Abdrazakov sang adequately as Mustafà, the part is demanding, and Abdrazakov's voice is not exceptional. He is , however, a fine actor. Bass Ricardo Herrera sang the buffo part of Taddeo well, his duet with Borodina in Act I, Scene 2 was good. Soprano Jane Archibald was fine as Elvira, nothing flashy, but she was the anchor of the finale in Act I.

The first half of the opera is stronger than the second musically, Act II just doesn't come through on the promise of Act I. The end of Act II is simply not strong, neither musically nor dramatically. Though the libretto has much in common with Die Entführung aus dem Serail, L'Italiana is mere farce.

The matinee audience was fairly well-behaved, with a notable exception. Some person had an altercation with Sharon, one of the people who heads the ushers. She apparently asked him not to lean against the wall during the overture of Act I and he had a fit which involved him speaking at full volume and calling her a "pain in the ass."