Il Turco Finally Arrives in Spain

SpainSpain Rossini: Il Turco in Italia, Liceu’s Orchestra and Chorus / Víctor Pablo Pérez (conductor). Barcelona’s Liceu, 4.6.2013. (JMI)

Production: from Bayerische Staatsoper Munich
Direction: Christof Loy
Sets and Costumes: Herbert Murauer
Lighting: Reinhard Traub

Fiorilla: Nino Machaidze
Selim: Ildebrando D’Arcangelo
Don Geronio: Renato Girolami
Prosdocimo: Pietro Spagnoli
Narciso: David Alegret
Zaida: Marisa Martins
Albazar: Albert Casals

Next year it will be two hundred years since the the premiere of this opera at Milan’s La Scala. Believe it or not, it has taken no less than 199 years for Il Turco in Italia to come to Barcelona’s Liceu. However, it is not such a rare opera in our country. I remember seeing it some 20 years ago at Madrid’s Teatro de la Zarzuela and, more recently, in Oviedo.

The stage production at the Liceu is by Christof Loy and I had the opportunity to see it in July 2007. I have wonderful memories of that performance, which commemorated the 30th anniversary of the debut of Carlos Chausson in Munich. The biggest difference between these performances lay in the absence of Chausson, and I missed him a lot since his Don Geronio was so memorable.

The production was originally a collaboration between Munich and Hamburg and it is an excellent example of how to put on an opera with imagination and good taste, within a reasonable budget. On stage there is life, fun, color and constant surprises, highlighting the excellent work that Mr. Loy has done with actors and chorus. From the entrance of the gypsies, as they leave a small caravan, to the masked party, through the scenes of the house of Don Geronio and the confrontation between Selim and Geronio in a hilarious boxing match, all the work of Christoph Loy is based on pure imagination, fun and good taste. Particularly interesting is his work with the members of the chorus, who appear to be stage workers. The sets consist of different modules and sliding panels, except for the elegant party room. Costumes are attractive and colorful, brought up to date. In short, this is a modern production which is both imaginative and fun.

At the start of the second act there is a mute scene between Prosdocimo and Don Geronio. At the Liceu this went almost unnoticed, while six years ago in Munich it was received with joy and cheers from the audience. The difference was undoubtedly due to the presence of Carlos Chausson on the stage of Munich.

Victor Pablo Pérez took us smoothly through this bufo Rossini score, but to my taste his conducting was short of life and spark. It is not a problem of tempi, which were very well suited, but there was that indefinable ‘something’ missing which you only get with a great conductor. Victor Pablo Perez is a very reliable conductor and he has proved this again, but more is needed.

Although the title seems to make Selim the protagonist, the real heroine of the opera is Fiorilla, the flirtatious wife of Don Geronio, who is always in search of amorous adventures. We had in this role Nino Machaidze, who gave a very persuasive portrayal of the character. This young soprano (30) has everything needed today to succeed in the world of opera. She is a great actress, in addition to having a beautiful face, and is full of life and expression. To this we must add that she is an excellent singer, despite the fact that I don’t find her timbre exceptionally beautiful or, rather, that there are areas in her voice that I don’t find really attractive, especially the middle range. The top is richer. With these qualities, it is not surprising that she has become an opera star.

Apart from the quality of her voice, her Fiorilla was made more interesting because Ms Machaidze is in an advanced state of pregnancy, which could have been taken advantage of by the production. Her next commitment is Juliette at Vienna and I don’t know what Monsieur Capulet or Frère Laurent will think of her, let alone Romeo himself!

Selim, the Turk, was played by Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, who gave a remarkable performance. He was good on stage and has the right voice for the role. Surely, along with Ildar Abdrazakov, he is the best Selim today.

Renato Girolami was a good Don Geronio, if not particularly brilliant. Pietro Spagnoli was a remarkable Prosdocimo, better than I expected. David Alegret was a modest Narciso. Marisa Martins gave a good performance in the character of Zaida, but the voice has very little that is appealling.

The Liceu was at about 80% of its capacity. The audience was warm toward the artists, giving the biggest cheers to Nino Machaidze.

José Mª. Irurzun