While not quite one of my favourite 3 Rossini operas ('Il Barbiere Di Siviglia', 'La Cerentola' and 'William Tell), 'L'Italiana in Algeri' is still a comic masterpiece with music that sparkles with wonder.
The best productions on DVD are the ones with Marilyn Horne and Dorris Soffel, and Jennifer Larmore's has many good merits too. In fact, having seen pretty much all the 'L'Italiana in Algeri' productions available, this messy and dispiriting performance from Pesaro is the only one below average.
Dario Fo's stage direction is what ultimately sinks the production the most. It was like he was afraid or reluctant to slow or take on less, because the staging was far too hyperactive and busy as well as too cluttered and over-populated and often with stuff that did not need to be there. There is a bizarre combination of opera, a ballet, or a puppet show, and it just feels too much and like he didn't know which direction to go. So much goes on that the comedy, which doesn't sparkle anywhere near as much as it should have done making one deflated rather than uplifted, and the music, which is wonderful and otherwise quite well-performed, are almost completely swamped.
Also big problems are the video directing and the sound/stage noise. The video directing is shot too much at a distance with few close ups and shots up close, which just takes away from all the details and nuances (that is when there is any, and when there is it's all musically). While the sound lacks resonance, is not always well-recorded and the music is often masked by the constant stage-noise which is like a herd of elephants on stage, with constant squeaks, scuffles and creaks, so distracting.
Production-values wise things are not much better. Everything looks both garish and drab, and the lighting is far too dim. Worse are the unattractive, unflattering and often hideous costumes, especially Mustafa's absurdly oversized head garment and Isabella's.
Luckily, it does fare better musically, but with the stage noise and the messy staging one can't enjoy it fully. The orchestral playing is zesty and alive to energy and nuances with plenty of beautiful tone. The chorus do the best with what they're given, and sound great, while the conducting seems to have an understanding of the Rossini style, and actually tries to keep things in order with an alert and sympathetic reading, though what goes on onstage constantly works against him.
If one has to sum up the performances overall, it would be variable. Best overall performances come from Marco Vinco as Mustafa and Bruno De Simone as Taddeo. Vinco has a sonorous warmth to his sound and manages the Colouratura elements very well, and he is a great comedian, playing with such gusto. De Simone has the biggest and most attractive voice in the cast, and he is humorous and witty.
Maxim Mironov sings with beautiful, sweet tone and again copes very well with Lindoro's difficult Colouratura. Unfortunately he is a bit bland and actually looks embarrassed in places, who can blame him. This reviewer has seen him before and actually he is not a bad actor at all, but it has a lot to do with that the staging doesn't give him much to do. Marianna Pizzolato often sings richly and with great projection, though flexibility doesn't always come naturally to her. Dramatically she is pretty indifferent and takes the production and the role of Isabella far too seriously.
In conclusion, didn't do much for me. Some good musical values but messy and dispiriting and too much of the music is swamped by the staging and stage noise to make its full impact. 4/10 Bethany Cox
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