Friday, 2 May 2014

The Turk In Italy, Opera Australia, May 1, 2014 ****

By Gioachino Rossino, libretto by Felice Romani, after libretto by Caterino Mazzolà
Opera Australia
State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **** 
Review also published in Herald Sun online on May 2, 2014 and later in print. KH

If opera makes you nervous, Simon Phillips’ playfully engaging production of Gioachino Rossini’s The Turk In Italy, is the ideal introduction to 19th century comic opera.

Phillips’ interpretation makes Rossini’s buoyant music accessible to modern audiences by providing hilariously mischievous surtitle translations for Felice Romani’s libretto, adding broad, physical comedy to the stage action, and setting the opera in a 1950s Italian seaside town.

The deliciously high-gelati colours of the design (Gabriela Tylesova) are almost lickable, with the setting and costumes echoing those of 1950s beachside movies.

Orchestra Victoria skilfully plays Rossini’s music under conductor Anthony Legge, and the lead singers and chorus bring to life Rossini’s beautiful harmonies.

First performed at La Scala, Milan, in 1814 when the precocious Rossini was only 21 – two years after his much-performed The Barber of Seville – The Turk in Italy has many of the hallmarks of Rossini’s comic operatic style.

Comic traditions abound in this story about Fiorilla (Emma Matthews), the flighty, unfaithful, young wife of old Geronio (Andrew Moran), and her romantic – or in this production, overtly sexual – dalliances with firstly Narciso (John Longmuir) and then Selim (Shane Lowrencev), the visiting Turkish prince.

Matthews plays the soprano role of Fiorilla with ardour, imbuing her with spirited coquettishness and sensuality, and confidently meeting the vocal challenges of the coloratura (top notes) with the power and beauty of her voice.

Lowrencev is wickedly salacious as the swaggering braggart, Selim, and he uses his rich, silky baritone to vividly express Selim’s abandoned passion.

Moran’s resonant bass tones bring vocal gravitas to the cuckolded, old Geronio as he struggles to regain his faithless wife’s attentions.

Anna Dowsley is sweetly child-like as Zaida, the gypsy girl who escaped Turkey and Selim’s jealous rage only to be reunited with him in Italy, and her mezzo-soprano is warm and inviting.

Samuel Dundas enthusiastically comments on the action as Prosdocimo, the poet/librettist who uses the characters’ romantic dilemmas to help him write his new play, while Longmuir, with his bright tenor, has fun as the hapless Narciso.

The unaccompanied vocal harmonies during the masquerade ball in Act Two are a highlight, as is Phillips’ exceptionally detailed comic business during the long overture, a scene that engages the audience from the first moment.

This Opera Australia production is a delight that hurls Rossini, famous in his own lifetime, into the modern era.

By Kate Herbert

Anthony Legge
Simon Phillips
Set & Costume Designer
Gabriela Tylesova
Lighting Designer
Nick Schlieper

Emma Matthews
John Longmuir
Andrew Moran
Shane Lowrencev
Samuel Dundas
Graeme McFarlane
Orchestra Victoria
Opera Australia Chorus

No comments:

Post a Comment