Algiers [1938]

L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers), Rossini's first real hit as a writer of comic opera, is one of those almost unsinkable works difficult to get entirely right. Michael Hampe's production for the 1987 Schwetzinger festival captures both its charm and its sense of menace--the court of the Bey is both a setting for farce and a place in which the Italian characters are at the mercy of a despot who will not necessarily find things funny. Gunther von Kannen's Mustafa is a convincing Bey of Algiers, while his adversary, the tough, witty proto-feminist Isabella, is given real presence in Doris Soffel's performance. The slightly effete tenor of Robert Gambill as her lover Lindoro makes him a perfect partner in intrigue for her. Conductor Ralf Weikert is particularly fine in the complicated finale of Act One with its imitations of bells and drums and its complicated vocal lines. --Roz Kaveney

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