Sunday, 26 April 2015

Nothing but fun in the sun ('Il Turco', ROH)

Rossini, Il Turco in Italia (ROH cond. Evelino Pidò) 

Rossini’s Il Turco is opera at is lightest, frothiest; cappuccino without the espresso. So sun-drenched is this that I was tempted to look for the after-sun when I got home. There are, arguably, some heavier themes in the libretto: the orientalism for one, the comments on art for another. Very wisely, this production just ignores this. It is just fun in the sun.
There are many things in this production to like. It is showing its age a little –so I thought - but is actually only 2005; I could have believed 1985. The moving shapes painted two colours (obliquely sails?) at the start and so forth, are rather flimsy and pointless – a sort of Rothko on wheels thing going on there. They might have made more of the beach too – rather than what appeared to be beige linoleum. Most of the costumes were a delight, but not Fiorilla’s wasp costume act two; and the glitter balls and blue rigouts were a bit too much. The car, taxi and scooter were great fun. The props were a scream too: wicker chianti flask and giant pizza, for example, are just fun. The Turk's ship is great fun as it arrives, pulled by great numbers; the pick-pocketing and removal all but undergarments from unsuspecting tourists are enormously entertaining. At times it all seems a little overdone, but that isn't the point. We are meant just to enjoy it, and that's what the audience was doing.
Evelino Pidò’s conducting of the ROH Orchestra gave heat to the sun, even if things seemed slightly uneven – I wondered if they the percussion was little too much at the start.
The singers and acting presented a wonderful ensemble piece. Aleksandra Kurzak (Fiorilla)  was the star of the show, and particularly towards the end –that’s when some of her big numbers come. Alessandro Corbelli (Don Geronio) made great work of the put-upon husband. Ildebrando D'Arcangelo’s Selim was swarthy and charming, and is happily paired off with Zaida (Rachel Kelley). Luis Gomes (Albazar) did much to get humour out too. Thomas Allen seemed to guide effortlessly his (Prosdocimo’s) characters through the plot – we could feel Rossini’s empathy exuded from every pore. Barry Banks (Don Narciso) was an absolute scream, not least at the very end when he apologises for lying, and grabs a male member of the chorus to the surprise of the others.

Barry Banks (Don Narciso), Thomas Allen (Prosdocimo), Rachel Kelly (Zaida) and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as Selim
© 2015, ROH. Photo by Tristram Kenton
There’s lots of jokes it in, and it is delightful. But the humour seems more like that you’d watch ona plane: because it’s there. the production has some very nice aspects. But it’s all worth the admission because of the music and the singing – which are beyond fault, and once Kurzak really gets going at the end, utterly superb.
After noting how little Donizetti gets much by way of regular hearings, I was surprised, looking through the Penguin Guide at how many of Rossini’s operas I hadn’t heard- or even heard of:.
it is likely the earliest of his opera’s you will hear.
Il turco has enjoyed nothing like the popularity of Il barbiere. It is hard to imagine a more enjoyable evening of opera than this.
Conductor - Evelino Pidò
Fiorilla - Aleksandra Kurzak
Selim - Ildebrando D'Arcangelo
Don Geronio - Alessandro Corbelli
Don Narciso - Barry Banks
Prosdocimo - Thomas Allen
Zaida - Rachel Kelly
Albazar - Luis Gomes
Chorus - Royal Opera Chorus
Concert Master - Vasko Vassilev
Orchestra - Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Directors - Moshe Leiser, Patrice Caurier
Set designs - Christian Fenouillat
Costume designs - Agostino Cavalca
Lighting design - Christophe Forey
Movement director - Leah Hausman

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