L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers), Rossini's first real hit as a writer of comic opera, is one of those almost unsinkable works difficult to get entirely right. Michael Hampe's production for the 1987 S... more »chwetzinger festival captures both its charm and its sense of menace--the court of the Bey is both a setting for farce and a place in which the Italian characters are at the mercy of a despot who will not necessarily find things funny. Gunther von Kannen's Mustafa is a convincing Bey of Algiers, while his adversary, the tough, witty proto-feminist Isabella, is given real presence in Doris Soffel's performance. The slightly effete tenor of Robert Gambill as her lover Lindoro makes him a perfect partner in intrigue for her. Conductor Ralf Weikert is particularly fine in the complicated finale of Act One with its imitations of bells and drums and its complicated vocal lines. --Roz Kaveney« less
"L'Italiana in Algeri is Rossini at his very best. First performed in Venice in 1813 when Rossini was but 21 years old, this most enchanting opera buffa soon took Europe by storm. Arthaus offers a production conducted by Ralf Weikert that captures magnificently the hilarity and madness of Rossini's first comic masterpiece. The singers and orchestra are magnificent, as are the costumes, sets and props--the live monkey adds a most comical touch! Watching the act 1 finale alone is worth the price of this DVD. Without doubt this would be a terrific first opera for the opera curioius, especially for anyone thinking that opera is always tragic and deadly serious. This production is a real treat, and only gets better with repeated viewings. A bubbling performance all around!"
Yet another pearl from Schwetzinger
J. Barry-Smith | Brisbane, Qld, Australia | 06/13/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The series of operas from the Schwetzinger Festival being released on the ARTHAUS label is proving to be a series of pearls, and this production is no exception. From the opening bars of the overture the RSO Stuttgart and the conductor Ralf Weikert play with such energy and warmth they sound as though they have all just returned from a holiday in southern Italy. The direction, as always with Michael Hampe, has the advantage of always keeping the action moving and has some truly inspired moments, especially the hilarious Finale of Act 1. Each of the singers has been chosen not only for their singing, but also for their acting, suitability for their role and their ability to be a member of a true ensemble. Doris Soffel truly shines as Isabella (this was 1987, pre Cecelia Bartoli), Robert Gambill is a Rossini tenor blessed with great beauty of tone and flexibility which is only slightly marred some pushing at the extreme top of his range, and Enric Serra is a baritone with the everything it takes to make Taddeo both humorous and yet strangely appealing. Gunther von Kannen is truly fabulous as Mustafa in terms of tone colour and his inspired, yet not over the top, comic acting, it is therefore a great shame that his voice is just not flexible enough to cope with the coloratura demands of the role. His uncredited side-kick is a hoot as well - but you'll have to buy this one to find out what I mean. Do yourself a favour! This DVD is a real winner that I dare you not to enjoy."
Funny with decent singing
figaro | Eugene, OR United States | 12/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a pretty nice video of this opera. There is only one real disappointment: The Mustafa has very little coloratura capabilities. His voice is a pleasant deep bass. The other singers all do fine with the coloratura requirements. The Isabella has a strong edgy mezzo with nicely blended registers. The Lindoro has a nice bright sound with easy high notes. The Taddeo and Haly have pleasant voices. The Elvira has a strong bright edgy soprano. The sets are nice with realistic looking ocean in the background. The costumes are nice. My only qualm about the directing is the little guy dressed in a chimpanzee costume supposedly as a pet of the Mustafa - seemed a little distracting. All in all, this is a good representation of the opera, notwithstanding some of the Mustafa's singing."
Charming in Every Way
David Cady | Jersey City, NJ USA | 03/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a small, beautifully designed, lovingly executed production, helmed by two talented young singers. No expense has been spared (particularly with the costumes) and director Michael Hampe obviously has a great affection for and understanding of the material. His command of the stage action is perfectly matched by conductor Ralf Weikert's jaunty conducting. Doris Soffel makes a spirited Isabella, and one can certainly understand why she's pining for Lindoro, as played by the boyish, slightly goofy Robert Gambill. They both sing beautifully, although now and then I did worry that Gambill's delicate voice wouldn't make it through the performance. (Watching young singers such as these struggle a bit really makes you appreciate the power and skills of true opera stars.) Gunther von Kannen is amusing enough as Mustafa, although the voice, unfortunately, is all bellow. You may want to wait to see if a starrier "L'Italiana" comes out in future, but for now this a charming, more than professional example of a small company at its very, very best."
Intimate production, very well performed
C. Harbison | Montague, MA United States | 07/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The smallness of the theater and set accentuate Rossini's delicate music. The singers are all very good, committed and believable in this crazy story. The conducting and orchestral sound are outstanding. A delightful DVD."