L'Italiana in Algeri
September 19, 2005
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."