Rossini: L’Italiana in Algeri

LABELS: Bel Air Classiques
WORKS: L’Italiana in Algeri
PERFORMER: Christianne Stotijn, Maxim Mironov, Marco Vinco; Arnold Schönberg Choir; Mahler CO/Riccardo Frizza; dir. Toni Servillo (Aix-en-Provence, 2006)
The Italian Girl is one of Rossini’s less appealing operas and full of pitfalls to modern sensibilities. So why do so many companies still perform it? The answer is, of course, its bubbling score (though, in my view, most of Rossini’s other scores bubble even more deliciously). Still, you’d have thought that French productions would tread especially carefully, given that country’s history in Algiers. Alas, this Aix-en-Provence Festival staging repeats all the clichés of provincial tradition, with big moustaches and oversized turbans. The chorus of eunuchs do silly walks, and Daniela Dal Cin’s set looks cheap – a single wooden pavilion that doubles as Mustafà’s palace and the Italians’ ship. Some compensation is provided in a fine musical performance, underpinned by Riccardo Frizza’s lively conducting and a characteristically vivid Mahler Chamber Orchestra. In the title role, the young Dutch mezzo Christianne Stotijn confirms her rising reputation, with strong chest notes and good coloratura, but it is hard to judge her acting skills in such a feeble production. The tenor Maxim Mironov is sweet-toned and stylish as Lindoro, and Isabella’s other two lower-voiced lovers are strongly taken by Marco Vinco (Mustafà) and, especially, Giorgio Caoduro (Taddeo). Yet even they cannot dispel the boredom of this clunkily filmed (and extra-less) release. John Allison