Rossini: L’italiana in Algeri

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Rossini
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Rossini: L’italiana in Algeri
WORKS: L’italiana in Algeri
PERFORMER: Anna Goryachova, Alex Esposito, Yijie Shi, Mario Cassi; Orchestra & Chorus of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna/José Ramón Encinar; dir. Davide Livermore

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This being Pesaro and a festival, why play safe? Davide Livermore takes the festival’s director at his word and shakes, rattles and rolls Rossini’s hit forward into the 1960s. Blake Edwards’s movies are the inspiration, the designer tells us in the bonus documentary. So there are animations that a budding Terry Gilliam would be happy to own, with a ‘cut out’ Isabella setting off from Rome to rescue Lindoro and crash landing into Mustafà’s courtyard. And there are costumes that seem to have strayed off the King’s Road via the movie Modesty Blaise. Alex Esposito’s Mustafà is a muscle man, Yijie Shi’s Lindoro a ‘pretty boy’ and as the hapless Taddeo, Mario Cassi is the kind of middle-aged man who hung around discos in the 1960s hoping to be mistaken for a swinger.

The problem with Edwards’s films was that while the cast seemed to be having an uproarious time, the audience rarely laughed. Equally, Livermore’s version of L’italiana in Algeri barely raises a smile. And when it seems to say something serious about oil and how the West caricatures the Middle East it’s back to the harem or trolley dollies simpering in with refreshments.

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A pity, as there’s some decent singing here from a young cast. Esposito is a classy Mustafà and Yijie Shi an attractive Lindoro. And while Anna Goryachova may lack the kind of lower register that Rossini loved, she’s nimble at the top and takes the coloratura with flying colours. And in the pit José Ramón Encinar does his best to keep the pot bubbling. Christopher Cook