Il Turco in Italia at Garsington Opera
What a lot of fun. The brilliant Rossini composed this opera at the age of 22 and it was premiered in Milan in 1814. The opera has had a chequered history. It was compared unfavourably to his previous success, L’italiana in Algeri and a version of the opera was rewritten in Paris by the Director, Ferdinando Paer, which stripped out a lot of Rossini’s original music, but included pieces from other operas, including L’italiana in Algeri. Unbelievably, this astonishing version was used a lot during the 20th century, until Franco Zeffirelli’s production with Maria Callas in the title role used the original version, but unaccountably excluding Fiorilla’s great concluding aria of despair.
The Director, Martin Duncan, used a single set ‘Napoli’ style with some wheel-on stands to include the poet’s office and the Cinzano Bar. It was well directed with continual movement by the assistant Director, Nick Winston. David Parry is a consistent conductor and worked well with the Garsington Opera Orchestra and Chorus. It was obviously a rather fun ensemble.
The British mezzo soprano, Katie Bray, sung the part of Zaida, the former fiancée of the Turkish Prince, Selim, sung by Quirijin de Lang. This young Dutch baritone possesses a deep bass baritone voice and certainly looked the part of a Turkish Prince, wearing a pink diamond encrusted turban. The baritone, Geoffrey Dolton, singing Geronio, the husband of Fiorilla, put the maximum possible into his characterisation of the role. It was very funny – as it was meant to be. The Albazar was the American Jack Swanson and the Narciso was the tenor voice of the Italian, Luciano Otellio, who had a high lying Rossini tenor voice, slightly dry at the top.
The proceedings were narrated by the poet, Prosdocimo, sung by the wonderfully clear baritone voice of the British singer, Mark Stone. He led the proceedings throughout, with clear diction and purpose and great characterisation.
However, the star of the night was the wonderful Fiorilla of Sarah Tynan, who was outstanding in her role. She has the rare ability to combine her superb artistic characterisation within her tremendous singing sequences to produce an all-round performance that would be hard to beat today. Her effortless trills and high notes, coupled with her imperious smile, not only melted the heart of her husband, Geronio, but also every man in the audience.
Garsington at its best.
Sunday 2 July 2017