Zany isn't a word too often applied to operas but should ideally apply to Rossini's The Italian Girl in Algiers. Rossini was just 21 when he whizzed off the Girl, in just under a month. An already existing libretto was re-used that tells how Mustafa, the Bey of Algiers, has gone off his wife, Elvira, as he focuses his attention on the recently captured Italian girl, Isabella. After countless farcical comings and goings, the whole lurid and innuendo-ridden plot is sorted out when Isabella decides to confer the mysterious honorary title of Pappataci on Mustafa - during the initiation the Bey is blindfolded and the Italians slip away to their waiting ship. Realising he has been duped something rotten, Mustafa denounces Italian women for ever and returns to his wife.
In English National Opera's new production, Howard Davies directs, to Tim Hatley's designs, with Swiss conductor Valentin Reymond swinging the baton in his house debut. The cast includes the redoubtable Rossini specialist Della Jones in the title role, Henry Runey as Mustafa and Charles Workman (left) singing Lindoro - a high tenor part of considerable difficulty.
Reviews, while praising the performances of Jones, Runey et al, have so far doubted whether Howard Davies's direction does justice to Rossini's ever-inventive music in a piece that should highlight some of the composer's most mesmerising and fizzing crescendos.
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