They run a class operation here at the LA Opera. The before opera lecture is given by music director James Conlon himself. And the liner notes for Rossini's Il Turco in Italia are by Philip Gossett.
James Conlon likes Turco. I'm not sure I do. Dr. Gossett assures us that none of the music is borrowed from other operas. The problem is that it seems like it is. Don Geronio's shtick is pretty much the same as Don Magnifico's in Cenerentola. Does it really matter that the notes aren't the same? A buffo patter song is a buffo patter song. Only Figaro truly transcends his category. Paolo Gavanelli is a perfect Don Geronio.
The poet character, sung by Thomas Allen, is constantly wondering if this particular bit will work for his finale. So we get finale-like music throughout the first half. Except when we get to the actual finale, they are careful to point out to us that this was written by someone else. The opera just peters out.
The production is fun. The opera starts with an empty stage with a small travel trailer in the center. Then one by one 30 gypsies come out of it. This is an opera that absolutely screams for a modern production. There are probably just as many gypsies in Naples today as there were in Rossini's time.
Selim arrives on a flying carpet. Cute.
Thomas Allen's poet is a basket case. Each appearance adds a new bandage, cast, eye patch, arm sling, something.
"In Italia certamente non si fa l'amor cosi." In Italy we don't make love like this. My favorite line.
If there is something really attractive about Turco, it is the fabulous slut character Fiorilla. I don't wish to offend any Italians, but in our hearts Fiorilla is the essential Italian woman. She flirts outrageously with every man and owns far too many Ferragamo shoes.
In fact this whole opera is about stereotypes: gypsies, Italian women, cuckolded husbands, Turks, Naples, poets.
I'm here for Nino Machaidze who sings Fiorilla. She is a beautiful young woman with a bright, penetrating and highly serviceable voice. I wish I liked her more. She was convincing and charming as the sexpot, and improved in the finding the music category. But you know, for me it is the music. I get the idea that she is improving. Opera singing is very hard work, and it is exactly this that is the hard part.