Gioachino Rossini L'italiana in Algeri
Dramma giocoso in two acts (1813)
Libretto by Angelo Anelli after his libretto for the eponymous opera (1808) by Luigi Mosca
Sung in Italian with German and English surtitles
Print programme (PDF)
Mustafà, the Bey of Algiers, is fed up with his wife and resolves to discard her for someone with more exotic charms: an attractive Italian girl would be just the ticket. On cue, his pirates intercept the shipwrecked Isabella, who has come looking for her lover, Lindoro. Does a future beckon as the star of Mustafà’s harem? The feisty Isabella is not so easily fazed, and her very first encounter with the sex-hungry Bey confirms her in her tried and tested strategy: coquetry and flattery are her weapons of choice. Soon, a disoriented Mustafà is all at sea. Smug machismo and emancipatory insubordination intersect at the heart of this equally comical and bizarre plot, in which two alien cultures also surprise each other with some strange rituals. In this way a dubious Oriental title is foisted upon one of the Italians, who for their part initiate Mustafà into a fellowship devoted to eating, drinking and sleeping. The real joke, however, lies in the music: L’italiana in Algeri (1813) marks the first full blossom of Rossini’s comic genius, at its most irresistible in moments like the finale of Act I, when the utterly bewildered characters stiffen into marionettes, becoming cogs in an electrifying machinery of rhythm and sound. Stendhal aptly called this music ‘organized and complete madness’.