L’Italiana in Algeri

Teatro Regio, Wednesday 4 March 2009 - Sunday 15 March 2009


Vivica Genaux (Isabella)

In 1805 the Milan newspapers featured the story about a lady from Milan, Antonietta Frapolli, who had been kidnapped and was being held prisoner by Mustafà-ibn-Ibrahim, the Bey of Algiers. Perhaps it was this news that gave Angelo Anelli the idea for the libretto of L’Italiana in Algeri that he wrote for Luigi Mosca and that was first performed at la Scala in 1808. Five years later, Rossini chose that same libretto to write, in great haste (some say 27 days, others 18), a new opera for Giovanni Gallo, impresario of the Teatro San Benedetto di Venezia. In 1813, in five months, Rossini wrote three operas for three different theatres in Venice: Il Signor Bruschino for the Teatro San Moisè, Tancredi for the Fenice and L’Italiana in Algeri for the San Benedetto. The opera premièred on 22 May 1813 with the leading roles sung by the likes of Marietta Marcolini as Isabella (Rossini had already composed for her L’Equivoco Stravagante, Ciro in Babilonia and La Pietra di Paragone) and Filippo Galli as Mustafà.
The opera is a sort of inverted mirror of il Turco in Italia that Rossini would write a year later: there, a Turkish man who arrives in Naples, here an Italian woman who is shipwrecked and kidnapped in Algiers. To represent musically the Turkish elements, Rossini’s orchestra includes a set of instruments - cymbals, triangles, bass-drum, military glockenspiel and Turkish crescent – grouped under the name of “Gran Banda Turca” and “catuba”. One admirer who appreciated the gag was Stendhal, who in his Vie de Rossini wrote: «our serious literary men of the ´Journal des débats` have found the action crazy without seeing, poor things, that if it weren’t crazy, it wouldn’t suit that type of music, which in itself is nothing but organised and complete madness». The opera became part of the regular repertoire in the last century with a production in 1925 at the Teatro di Torino, with Vittorio Gui conducting and Conchita Supervia in the leading role.



Main data

Composer: Gioachino Rossini
Librettist: Angelo Anelli
Year of the first performance: 1813 Teatro San Benedetto, Venezia

Previous staging:

1949, 1967,1979, 1992, 2000