Notes and Editorial Reviews
L'Italiana in Algeri · Die Italienerin in Algier · The Italian Girl in Algiers
(Gesamtaufnahme · Complete)
Marilyn Horne · Paolo Montarsolo · Douglas Ahlstedt · Allan Monk
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
James Levine, conductor
Production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle
Video Director: Brian Large
STEREO: PCM / SURROUND: Dolby Digital 5.1 & DTS 5.1
Picture Format: 4:3
A production of Metropolitan Opera Association, Inc.
* When Marilyn Horne performed the lead role of L’Italiana in Algeri in 1986, she was
indisputably the Metropolitan Opera’s reigning “Italian Girl.”
* This DVD of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s inventive production is Marilyn Horne’s only filmed Isabella – “the queen of Rossini singers” Richard Osborne.
* This DVD is also a memorable portrayal of veteran performer Paolo Montarsolo, who comes into his own in the hilarious “Pappataci” Trio in Act II.
* Includes bonus material – Marilyn Horne talks about Rossini and performs excerpts from Samson et Dalila (“Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix”) and The Ghosts of Versailles (Samira’s Scene ).
R E V I E W S
“Levine conducts a suitably light and fleet performance … Ponnelle’s production is rich in high-spirited invention.” -- The New York Times
L’italiana in Algeri
James Levine, cond; Marilyn Horne (
); Paolo Montarsolo (
); Douglas Ahlstedt (
); Myra Merritt (
); Spiro Malas (
); Diane Kesling (
); Allan Monk (
); Metropolitan Op O & Ch
000657909 (2 DVDs: 181:00) Live: Metropolitan Jan 11, 1986
Marilyn Horne interview; arias from
Samson et Dalila
The Ghosts of Versailles
L’italiana in Algeri
(Venice, 1813) was Rossini’s 11th opera but his first great comedy. He revised it several times, notably the following year for Milan. Like much of Rossini except
, it lay dormant until the 20th century and the rise of great mezzos to take on its challenging virtuoso lead parts. In fragments of an interview included with this set, Marilyn Horne suggests Rossini turned her career from being merely wonderful into being great. I’m a big fan of Rossini and of Horne, and, especially, of Rossini and Horne together, both in serious operas, such as
, and in comic ones, such as this one. This film started out as a “Live from the Met” broadcast and has had its sound transformed into Dolby digital format. It is also the only film of Horne in the role of Isabella.
Musically, this is a wonderful performance, which is its principal recommendation. It starts in the pit, where Levine turns out a crisp overture. Throughout, Levine’s hand keeps things moving at an energetic pace that yet doesn’t seem rushed. Though there are seven principals, most of the work goes to four of them. Ahlstedt’s clear but slightly edgy voice gets better as the show goes on. In the second act, he sings the 1814 Milan cavatina, “Voce che tenera,” instead of the original, “Oh come il cor di giubilo.” Allan Monk’s ringing baritone and excellent acting are a perfect foil for Paolo Montarsolo’s entertaining and over-the-top Mustafà. In this, Montarsolo was also a good match for Horne, whose comedy shows itself more restrainedly in her gestures and face. And then there’s her singing. When all is said and done, this is Isabella’s show. Apart from the ensembles, she has three great arias, each in a different genre, each requiring great virtuosity, each demanding a wide range of vocal acting. This is what Horne does best, and she does her best here.
This recording uses Jean-Pierre Ponelle’s 1973 production. His costumes are wonderful. The unit set is essentially a pretty, beige, backdrop with an adequate number of openings: it leaves most of the stage available for the action. Alas, there is almost no action. As a director, Ponelle has few clever ideas, letting Rossini do all the work. This may not be a bad idea, but we are speaking of theater, after all, and the big space available suggests that it will be used. People come on, run around for a bit and then stop and sing. Even the grand ceremony of creating Mustafà a Pappataci is fairly static: the chorus just stands there in red clown noses. Most of the comic action takes place intimately, and the film director, Brian Large, has made the most of these moments.
Since act I is the shorter of the two, the bonus tracks are put there, however confusing this sounds. There is no information about them in the accompanying booklet, but they consist of the fragmentary, undated, interview noted above, a performance of “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” from Saint-Saëns’s
Samson and Dalilah
(which looks like it comes from the concert for Levine’s 25th anniversary at the Met), and Samira’s scene, “I am in a valley,” from John Corigliano’s
The Ghosts of Versailles
(1991, probably from the broadcast of 1993). Subtitles are available in the original Italian, as well as in English, German, French, Spanish, and Chinese.
FANFARE: Alan Swanson
The Italian girl has a ball in one of her signature roles and a favourite production
“Vulgar” was the verdict of the New York Times when Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s production was first staged at the Met in 1973. In her autobiography, published 20 years later, Marilyn Horne recalls the reaction with some amusement, which she could well afford since in L’italiana she scored one of the great successes of her career, a triumph which was certainly not diminished by this revival of 1986. Whether filming has played down the offensive elements or whether time has further eroded our standards in such matters, it seems unlikely that the annihilating word will be on the lips of many viewers today. The bare-bellied eunuchs are not a pretty sight, but they are not for long. The Italian sailors made up for the Pappataci ceremony are kitted out with red noses as though for Comic Relief Day, but they’re soon off and away in the ship that magically sails onstage. And Mustapha’s mountain of spaghetti is moderation itself compared with what I seem to remember of the Ponnelle production brought to Covent Garden from Vienna in 1988. In fact the staging is, for the most part, imaginative and stylish, even at times rather beautiful.
Another feature mentioned by Marilyn Horne is her first entrance. Initially she thought it a crazy idea to have her come in backwards, turning to the audience only when her first notes were due, but of course she soon found it worked, and she is clearly delighted to be going through the routine again here. Her own glowing enjoyment is a great life-enhancer throughout, and her voice, if a little less full-bodied than of old on top, is still rich, flexible and utterly individual. Paolo Montarsolo in his famous role of the Bey of Algiers knows exactly what to do and his zest too is infectious. Taddeo is presented, rather engagingly, as a bespectacled professional figure who can’t be doing with all this 1001 Nights nonsense. Douglas Ahlstadt is a lively, personable Lindoro with well schooled technique though tonally not ingratiating in the upper register. The others are fine and the ensemble work is spirited and precise. Levine conducts with good-humoured firmness, and the orchestra play as though Rossini is their number-one composer.
John Steane, GRAMOPHONE (7/2007)
Works on This Recording
L'italiana in Algeri by Gioachino Rossini
Douglas Ahlstedt (Tenor),
Paolo Montarsolo (Bass),
Marilyn Horne (Mezzo Soprano),
Allan Monk (Baritone)
Metropolitan Opera Chorus,
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Written: 1813; Italy
Be the first to review this title