I attended last Thursday Il turco in Italia, the fourth new La Scala production. It was the the fourth performance. Giancarlo Cobelli was the stage director, and Riccardo Chailly the conductor. Unfortunately the cast was not the same of the first night. Mariella Devia as Fiorilla was replaced by Antonia Brown, Alfonso Antoniozzi as Don Geronio by Donato Di Stefano, Roberto De Candia as Prosdocimo by José Fardilha and Francesco Piccoli as Albazar by Bruce Fowler. Michele Pertusi as Selim, Paul Austin Kelly as Don Narciso and Laura Polverelli as Zaida were confirmed in their roles.

It is common knowledge that Il turco in Italia has been a very unlucky opera. The first performance, the 14th of august 1814, was booed by the audience of La Scala, because it was judged a reverse remake after L’italiana in Algeri. Stendhal wrote that the milanese audience feel this opera as an insult to the prestige of La Scala.

Subsequently, the opera was mutilated by withdrawing many parts and by adding parts of other works, as L’italiana in Algeri, Torvaldo e Dorlisca and so on. So, it went off the repertoire, as the audience liked better the two next Rossini operas, Il barbiere di Siviglia and La cenerentola.

The Rossini renaissance revalued the opera. It is not at all a remake after L’italiana in Algeri, but a beautiful opera buffa, undoubtedly original either as plot, and as music. Rossini in this opera left the farcical situations of L’italiana, and tried to better portray the characters. Fiorilla, the central role, is a lively sensual young bride who likes sentimental adventures. Her old husband is a victim of the liveliness of Fiorilla, but he is not a ridiculous character. He is a quite dignified person, and the music well portrays him, as in the second act quintet, when he is disconcerted: “Oh guardate che accidente”.

The main idea in the opera is the character of Prosdocimo, a poet who is going to write a play. He acts in the opera affecting  the behaviour of the other characters so that the events will be the plot of his play. Namely, he writes his play making use of the characters of the opera. This is theatre into the theatre (Play into the play?). About one century later a great italian poet, Luigi Pirandello, wrote some theatrical plays on this topic: teatro nel teatro, going into the relationships between life and theatre. The most famous of them is Sei personaggi in cerca di autore (Six characters looking for a writer?). So, Il turco in Italia is regarded now as a forerunner of the Pirandello plays. We say that Il turco in Italia is a “pirandellian” play, even though it was written before the Pirandello’s plays.

The Cobelli production brings out this topic. There is only one very simple scene, a space bounded by light brown walls, on which little courtains go up and down according with the progress of the theatrical action. The characters and several mimers go in and out through. A few needed furnishing are placed by the mimers, who move through the stage very slowly. All characters has sumptuous costumes, except Prosdocimo, who wears a simple tailcoat. His acting is at the same time outside and inside the theatrical events. The general outcome is very agreeable.

The Rossini music is quite different from L’italiana in Algeri. His style is influenced by Mozart, and there are some quotations from his music (namely, a theme of the final movement of Jupiter symphony, in the trio of the first act “Un marito – scimunito”). The operatic numbers are often choirs and ensembles, whereas solistic airs are not many, and the main recitativo con aria, the Fiorilla’s one, shortly before the Finale II, “I vostri cenci vi mando”, is written as an air of Opera seria, with a final Cabaletta. We know as well that all recitatives and three operatic numbers are not by the Rossini’s hand, but by a collaborator’s one. In this production was added for the first time a Don Geronio’s aria (N° 11 bis)  Se ho da dirla, avrei molto piacere”, which was proved to be written by Rossini for this opera.

Chailly conducted the orchestra with a great accuracy. The most difficult task in Rossini operas, the respect of rhythms and the synchronization orchestra-stage during the ensembles, was worked out about perfectly. The orchestra sounded lightly, and the voices never were covered. The instrumental assolos (horn, trumpet in the ouverture) were clear. Chailly knows this opera very well: his experience goes back to 1981, when he recorded it (Ramey and Caballé in the cast).

The cast. We all were waiting Mariella Devia. The italian TV broadcasted this production of Il turco in Italia. Mariella Devia was marvellous. She sang and acted with great freshness and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, in the performance which I attended, Mariella Devia was replaced by Antonia Brown, a young soprano. However she was capable of coping with the situation. A criticism may be made with the high notes, who she sang a little too shouting.

Pertusi confirmed to be the great rossinian baritone who everyone knows: beautiful tone of voice, agility in tong twister, majesty in bearing. The duet “D’un bell’uso di Turchia” was an exhilarating experience.

The others singers of the cast are equal to their tasks.

The milanese audience and I, even though disappointed by the absence of Devia, enjoyed the performance and applauded cast, conductor and stage director heartily.

Greetings to all leisters, and apologies for my mistakes.

 Guarda le foto di scena

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