Conductor: Jean-Christophe Spinosi
Production: Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier
Isabella: Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo)
Mustafa: Ildar Abdrazakov (baritone)
Lindoro: Edgardo Rocha (tenor)
Taddeo, suitor: Alessandro Corbelli (baritone)
Elvira, Mustafa's wife: Rebeca Olvero (soprano)
Constant searching has led me to a film of Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri from Whitsun at Salzburg in 2018. This is regie, of course. The subtitles seem to be in French. We are in Mustafa's bedroom where his wife makes advances while husband Mustafa is sleeping. He doesn't like it. Lindoro comes in with a vaccuum, smoking, wearing dreads and a tattoo. There is lots of nice music for Lindoro and Mustafa. The houses in the street all have satellite dishes.
After the guys leave, Cecilia comes in riding on a camel. Camel raises tail, Cecilia holds nose. This is an opera comedy that seems actually to be funny. Corbelli runs out of one of the stores to save Cecilia from bandits [cops?] waving guns? She says he is her uncle and shows her passport. Isabella is a contralto and is fairly easy for Cecilia. Everything is charming. I'm so glad she is singing this and that I am finally seeing it. My traveling days may be over.
In the next scene Isabella meets Mustafa and critiques his figure. In a row behind them are men smoking hookahs and blowing the smoke out onto the stage. Lindoro and Isabella see each other. Stuffed chairs roll around the stage. Isabella tells Mustafa he already has a wife.
This is fun. It is wonderful to see Isabella played by the essential Italian woman. Cecilia has long been my favorite Italian.
In the prelude to act 2 there are annoying banging sounds which turn out to be people slicing vegetables. The male chorus, clearly Mustafa's flunkies, carry boxes of electronics. Is Mustafa selling them, stealing them, what? Mustafa is arranging a meeting with Isabella. Cecilia enters smoking, but I don't see smoke. Sight gags. Smooching.
Taddeo takes off his trousers and is wearing Superman briefs. We have as many sight gags as you could possibly want. I am enjoying this very much. Suddenly male chorus all have guns and shoot them off. Perhaps Mustafa is an Algerian mafioso.
Back in Isabella's apartment she is taking a bubble bath with people all around, including us, of course. Mustafa enters in his night clothes and tries to get an eyeful. Isabella is waving bras around and singing. It is a fact that this is my first time seeing The Italian Girl in Algiers with a real Italian girl. So we know what has been missing. The aria ends and Lindoro wheels the bathtub off stage. Isabella soon reenters in her nightgown. Taddeo assumes the lotus position. Everything is getting out of control when Elvira enters. Mustafa passes out.
We see clips of La Dolce Vita where Anita Ekberg gets into the Trevi Fountain, the ultimate Italian woman film. I don't know what the general reception for this production was, but I am loving it. It is colossally silly with the spectacular Cecilia Bartoli in the middle. I find that I am shockingly unfamiliar with most of the music in this opera.
In the final scene the male chorus are all dressed as soccer players. Isabella feeds them from a giant pot of pasta. She sings "Pensa la patria" to Lindoro who is also Italian. This is at last familiar, probably from one of Cecilia's albums. She flirts with everyone. Mustafa is to be made a Pappataci. He goes back to his regular wife and the Italians all sail off for Italy. Bon voyage. Everyone lives happily ever after. Isabella and Lindoro are doing Titanic at the end, but let's assume their fates are different. How many icebergs can there be in the Mediterranean?
For me this production was perfect. Yes, it's modernized but I found the changes never to be a distortion of the story. After all, an Italian woman is an Italian woman in any era. I also thought the cast was as good as it gets, most of all our Italian woman, Cecilia Bartoli.