Rossini composed effervescent comedies such as Il barbiere di Siviglia and La Cenerentola, and other masterful farces that are performed with less frequency, making the Metropolitan Opera’s latest revival of L’Italiana in Algeri eagerly anticipated.
It’s an evening of over-the-top shenanigans and ostentatious musical pyrotechnics. Music Director Emeritus James Levine led a taut, buoyant account of the score that featured beautiful solo playing. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s 1973 production holds up remarkably well with its animated direction and vivid sets, and makes a strong case for this underperformed romp.
As the romantic leads – the eponymous ‘Italian Girl’ Isabella and her lover Lindoro – Marianna Pizzolato and René Barbera correspondingly were both making their Met debuts. Pizzolato (replacing Elizabeth DeShong for the run) brought charm and expressive acting to the role and sang with creamy timbre, her impeccable technique evident in fiendishly difficult runs and patter as well as in top notes. Barbera was tentative in Act One, but as the evening progressed he found greater confidence and ultimately threw himself into a likeable interpretation. He melted hearts with ardent tone and thrilling high notes.
As the Bey Mustafà, Ildar Abdrazakov stole the show with unflagging energy, exuberance, charisma, and outlandish hi-jinks. In recent seasons, New York audiences have seen Abdrazakov portray such fearsome characters as Prince Igor and King Henry VII in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, so it was a joy to witness his comedic acting.
Nicola Alaimo projected well as Taddeo, his vocalization fitting his nervously agitated character, and Ying Fang brought shimmering tone and crystal-clear high notes to Elvira. As Haley and Zulma respectively, Dwayne Croft and Rihab Chaieb contributed to the overall hilarity.