[Met Performance] CID:235540

New Production

L'Italiana in Algeri
Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, November 10, 1973 Matinee

Debut : Jean-Pierre Ponnelle

L'Italiana in Algeri (5)
Gioachino Rossini | Angelo Anelli
Marilyn Horne

Luigi Alva

Theodor Uppman

Fernando Corena

Christine Weidinger

Shirley Love

Gene Boucher

Gabor Ötvös

Jean-Pierre Ponnelle [Debut]

L'Italiana in Algeri received fourteen performances this season.

Production gift of an anonymous donor

Review 1:

Review of Speight Jenkins in the New York Post


Unlike the other major U. S. companies the Metropolitan Opera has been very cautious over the last two decades in presenting bel canto opera. On Saturday afternoon the absence was partly rectified by an inventive new production of one of the more delightful of Gioacchino Rossini's comedies, "L'Italiana in Algeri."

Not heard at the Met since 1920, the work gave New Yorkers a chance not only to enjoy Marilyn Horne in an ideal role but to see the work of designer-director Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, one of the most exciting younger production men in the world of opera.

Ponelle's fame rests on his clever use of unusual props and witty stage business. In this "L'Italiana" his success could be measured in the suitability of the kooky action to Rossini's effervescent music.

The opera's plot describes the easy conquest of an Algerian bey by an Italian girl, a victory winning her both her freedom and that of her boyfriend, who before the opera began had become the Bey's slave. Ponnelle brings on the girl and her fellow Italians by shooting off a huge cannon to sink their ship.

On Saturday, much lighting of matches and no boom: the audience loved it. Throughout the afternoon, Ponnelle moved singers with cleverness and a fine regard for facial humor; miscalculations such as the overuse of moving platforms did not spoil the general effect.

The style and elegance of Ponnelle's beige unit set, a seraglio room with backdrops of blue sky, a turreted castle or a palm garden behind the traditional arched doorways, was set off by the white, beige and brown costumes of all the Algerians - the Bey, his wife, fat, masked eunuchs. Brilliant lighting set the piece even more firmly in Africa and the stage to radiate heat and a kind of poetic Moorishness perfect to the tale. Color did not disappear, however; it came from the girl's costumes and her boyfriend's sailor suit.

Miss Horne gave a superior performance as the girl. Her seamless range from high soprano down to the bass depths of contralto flowed perfectly; she was funny; and she exhibited virtually none of the excessive embellishment that can make her work coarse. Signing Rossini to her is as natural as breathing, and the joy of those effortless trills, the perfect scale, the flawless florid figures have to be heard live to be fully appreciated.

She was paired splendidly by Luigi Alva in the best voice he has had at the Met in several seasons. Always a delight to look at as he merrily steals scenes, Alva, despite some tightness on top, had working for him a Rossini sound and perfectly produced coloratura.

Fernando Corena, though not strong in the vocal department and only able to suggest the coloratura, sang and acted the Bey with the authority gleaned from his years of buffo work, and Theodor Uppman polished off the girl's admirer Taddeo with vigor and a strong comic sense. Particularly in his duet with Miss Horne in Act I, Uppman showed his adeptness at the quick and flowing style so necessary to this music.

Christine Weidinger (as the Bey's wife), Shirley Love (as her servant) and Gene Boucher (as the Bey's servant) all served admirably, with Miss Weidinger singing a particularly effective high C in Rossini's best number - the wacky, glittering finale of Act I.

Though the conductor, Gabor Ötvös did not lead an idiomatic "L'Italiana" or one that had a thought-through, consistent overall line, it was solid and brisk. Some tempos seemed a shade rushed and others too slow and he really only got ideal sound in a few moments such as the Quintet of Act II, but the Met has known far worse.

Photograph of Marilyn Horne as Isabella in L'Italiana in Algeri by James Heffernan/Metropolitan Opera.

Photograph of Marilyn Horne and Fernando Corena in a scene from L'Italiana in Algeri by James Heffernan/Metropolitan Opera.

Search by season: 1973-74

Search by title: L'Italiana in Algeri,

Met careers