Il turco in Italia premiered more than 200 years ago, August 1814, at La Scala in Milan, but with little success because the work was accused of being a copy of L’italiana in Algeri. As a matter of fact, Il turco in Italia has never been as popular as other Rossini’s masterpieces, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia; yet, despite the libretto not being brand new, this opera marked Rossini’s desire to break free from the stereotypes of the comic opera and the commedia dell’arte.

Il turco in Italia in concert
© Teatro San Carlo

As one of the characters, Prosdocimo – a poet in search of inspiration for a new story – puts it: "They have staged poets of all races, silly husbands, and a crazy wife": it was time for Rossini to try something new. The plot was certainly not without problems for the mores of the day: a man from Turkey wants to buy a wife in Italy, while the Italians are portrayed as incapable of loyalty. Depending on how it is staged, though, it can be either one of the minor Rossini comedies, or a more profound reflection on cultural stereotypes. Generally, it has been too often stuck to clichés. As for this performance at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples... we will never know. Firstly, this was a performance in concert form; secondly, watching opera in streaming is demeaning, and finally, here all the recitatives were unexpectedly cut – and we know that recitatives are the wheels of the plot. So, in this case, it was a dramma buffo which was neither pensive nor funny. The whole thing was reduced to a series of arias and ensembles, like in a recital, not dramaturgically consistent. The lack of staging arouses the nostalgia for an opera buffa of the good old days: also with a reduced stage setting, with minimal props, even with the most abstruse (and politically correct) Regietheater, but please, give us back live opera!

Julie Fuchs
© Teatro San Carlo

Julie Fuchs portrayed her Fiorilla not only as a fickle spouse; she also was able to express her insecurities very credibly. She produced her coloratura with shiny terseness and nimble liveliness. The fresh colour of her voice conveyed a great deal of youthful, lyrical quality. Also Marko Mimica’s Selim was quite convincing, as his voice sounded solid, though not very refined. A good moment was his duet with Fiorilla, where his full bass combined perfectly with Fuchs’ agilities.

The role of Selim's rival, Don Narciso, was taken on by Ruzil Gatin, who, with his high tenor and good coloratura passages, was a happy surprise of the evening. In his aria "Intensi, ah tutti intensi", he successfully injected blazing esprit and powerful high-pitches, along with a natural velvet quality.

Marko Mimica
© Teatro San Carlo

The rest of the cast was inspired by a great zeal, too. Alessandro Luongo was quite at home in the role of Prosdocimo, while as Don Geronio, Paolo Bordogna displayed a warm, deep bass and, what is more, he knew how to give life to a character in a Rossini comedy.

Under the direction of Carlo Montanaro, the Orchestra del Teatro di San Carlo sounded solid and concentrated, and some passages were played with joy and heartfelt commitment (only a bit low-pitched, at times). Montanaro did not get stuck in details, though, and he kept the score “breathing” as he gave the singers the possibility to contour their phrases. The chorus of the San Carlo gave the usual positive impression with their full sound and precise phrasing.

This performance was reviewed from the Teatro San Carlo live video stream on Facebook