The Turk In Italy
Opera Review by Willard Manus
Rossini as Mozart. The blending of opera buffa and opera seria was thought to be the exclusive province of Mozart until Gioachimo Rossini proved the critics wrong, first in 1813 with his The Italian Girl in Algiers, followed a year later by the flip side of that opera, The Turk in Italy.


Los Angeles Opera, in a co-production with Bavarian State Opera, has mounted a scintillating revival of The Turk, one that illuminates Rossini's jaunty score and Felice Romano's quirky libretto in bright, irreverent fashion. With James Conlon conducting and Axel Weidauer (after Christof Loy) directing, the production painted the comedy with broad, bold strokes: in the opening scene, for example, the entire cast spilled out of a tiny beat-up trailer like circus clowns out of a VW bug. That set the tone for the rest of the evening, which alternated between slapstick, satire and social commentary for the next three hours.

Sexual highjinks abound in The Turk, along with pointed barbs about immigration, minorities and racism. The convoluted, daffy story centers on Selim (Simone Alberghini), a Sylvester Stallone-like young Turkish stud (in hoop earrings, yet) who arrives in Italy intending to steal Fiorilla (Nino Machaidze), a beautiful young woman, away from her rich, aged husband (Paolo Gavanelli). But first Selim, a prince who goes nowhere without his two bodyguards (attired in black suits and black shades), hits on Zaida (Kate Lindsey), an ex-girlfriend now telling fortunes with the Gypsies.

Other key characters include Producimo the Poet (Thomas Allen), who acts as a kind of buffoonish narrator (when he isn't making notes for his own comic opera); and Don Narciso (Maxim Mironov), an Italian nobleman whose life has been devoted to seduction. Most of the characters in The Turk are oddballs, though by story's end they have managed to develop a smidgen of a social conscience.

Rossini's music is the opera's strong suit, of course. His witty score delights from start to finish; the same can be said of the singers in LA Opera's production. Nino Machaidze shone as Fiorilla, but the other principals more than held their own with her, filling the stage with melodious, Mozart-like arias and comic patter.

In March LA Opera will present JONAS KAUFMAN IN RECITAL followed by a first-time production of Benjamin Britten's THE TURN OF THE SCREW. The company will also mount, for one night only, a concert version of Britten's NOYE'S FLUDDE at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A. For tickets and information call 213-972-8001 or visit