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BWW Review: L'ITALIANA IN ALGERI at Sarasota Opera House

The opera, L'italiana in Algeri, (The Italian Girl in Algiers), by Gioachino Rossini, (The Barber of Seville, William Tell, Ivanhoé), bears an avant-garde theme contemporary to the struggle women are still facing today - some sense of equality. The opera buffa, (comic opera), written in 1813, when Rossini was 21 years old, was reportedly completed in just 3 weeks. Rossini's forward thinking and sense of comedy make this plot twisting composition one of the most fun you will encounter in the world of opera.

As the curtain rises we get the immediate feeling that male masculinity is the theme of this testosterone-driven plot. The phallic symbolism overshadowing the stage architecture is no mistake. Kudos to scenic designer, Michael Schweikardt, for setting the tone.

The plot surrounds Mustafa, (Harold Wilson), the arrogant Bey of Algiers who finds himself bored with his submissive harem and losing interest in his wife Elivra, (Jessica E. Jones). He needs a new love interest to ignite his virility and tasks his slave, Haly, (Alexander Charles Boyd), to find him a fiery Italian girl to challenge his machismo and boost his ego. Mustafa decides to marry off his devoted wife Elviria to his slave, Lindoro, (Hak Soo Kim). However, Lindoro has his sights on his Italian homeland fiancé, Isabella, (Tara Venditti). Elvira's sweet confidante, Zulma, (Fleur Barron), tries to offer her support through this ordeal.

As fate would have it, Isabella and her love-struck companion Taddeo, (Bruno Taddia), become shipwrecked in Algiers. When Mustafa hears about the Italian girl at his shores, he has Isabella and Taddeo captured. Isabella proves to be a confidant woman and shows her prowess in handling cavalier men while mentoring the other young ladies to follow in her expertise. Now, the already sordid plot begins to thicken. The chaos that ensues is delightfully entertaining as each character comes to life in brilliant song, impeccable stage direction, (Mark Freiman), and beautiful costuming, (Howard Tsvi Kaplan). This well cast performance shows off not only the substantial vocal abilities of these performers but also their sense of comedic timing and devotion in allowing each other to shine. The Act 1 finale is an impressive scenario to watch as each of the main characters articulates their bewilderment by imitating a variety of hilarious contortions, thumping sounds and pulsating gyrations.

Harold Wilson as the misogynistic chieftain is charming and bold, yet vulnerable. His deep vocal range radiates in the theatre. Ms. Jones, Ms. Barron, and Ms. Venditti offer strong stage presence and vocal dexterity in their demanding roles. Mr. Taddia, Mr. Boyd and Mr. Kim embody equally challenging roles and achieve a compelling rendering of their characters and the difficult pieces they mastered. Embellishing the entire opera and its proficient ensemble is the masterful score presented by the Sarasota Opera Orchestra, under the superlative direction of conductor, Anthony Barrese.

You may not find an opera with the great sense of humor as The Italian Girl in Algiers. Although it is humorous in nature, there is nothing amateur or silly about the depth by with the actors approach their characters, the music played by the opera symphony, the costumes, the lighting, the sets, or the direction. It is a beautiful production worth experiencing that will make you feel proud that humor can tastefully grace the opera stage and leave a smile on your face.

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From This Author Carolan Trbovich