A new production of Il turco in Italia triumphs in Madrid

SpainSpain Rossini, Il turco in Italia: Teatro Real Chorus and Orchestra / Giacomo Sagripanti (conductor). Teatro Real, Madrid, 9 and 11.6.2023. (JMI)

Misha Kiria (Don Gironio) and Florian Sempey (Prosdocimo) © J. del Real

Director and Costumes – Laurent Pelly
Sets – Chantal Thomas
Lighting – Joël Adam

Selim – Alex Esposito / Adrian Sampetrean
Fiorilla – Lisette Oropesa / Sara Blanch
Don Geronio – Misha Kiria / Pietro Spagnoli
Prosdocimo – Florian Sempey / Mattia Olivieri
Don Narciso – Edgardo Rocha / Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani
Zaida – Paola Gardina / Chiara Amarù
Albazar – Pablo García López

Il turco in Italia is not a rare opera, but it is performed very little in the major opera houses. It will suffice to mention that these performances represent its premiere at Teatro Real, as was the case at the Liceu in Barcelona where its premiere took place just ten years ago. This is not, however, the first time it has been done in Madrid: it could be seen at Teatro de la Zarzuela in January 1990, with an excellent cast and conducted by the always-remembered Alberto Zedda.

For this premiere, Teatro Real has commissioned a new production in collaboration with the Lyon Opera and the New National Theater in Tokyo, directed by the well-known Laurent Pelly.

The production stands out for its stage direction. It is a buffo opera, and that is how Pelly handles it, paying great attention to the movement on stage. In general, it can be said that this is a fun and colorful production. The musical direction was entrusted to Giacomo Sagripanti, who was making his debut at the Teatro Real. His reading was fine, and the lively tempos served Rossini’s music well.

The sets are fairly simple, and the most complicated ones can be seen at the beginning and end of the opera, where there are two houses on stage. Don Geronio’s is on the left and the poet Prosdocimo’s on the right, with a wide space in front for the characters and chorus to move about. In the rest of the opera, the sets are spare, leaving the stage almost empty in more than one case, while at other times the center contains small cubicles and abundant photos of the principals.

There were two different casts, and the voices gathered here are important, but perhaps priority was given to vocal quality rather than stage presence.

Il turco Selim was played in the first cast by bass Alex Esposito, who did a good job and has a well-suited voice, although it is somewhat baritonal for my taste. He sang with gusto and moved well on stage. The second Selim was bass Adrian Sampetrean, who did well in terms both of singing and acting.

Alex Esposito (Selim) and Lisette Oropesa (Fiorilla) © J. del Real

The great protagonist of the opera is Fiorilla, a role for which soprano Lisette Oropesa had been announced. She had to cancel the first performances due to illness, but she returned to the stage a few days ago, and we were able to enjoy her interpretation on all fronts. She had the great triumph of the night, and the audience dedicated an ovation of almost one minute to her great Act II scene.

Fiorilla in the second cast was Catalan soprano Sara Blanch, who also triumphed in her performance. She was excellent, with an attractive, well-handled voice.

Baritone Misha Kiria as Don Geronio has a strong voice throughout the range. This is a buffo character par excellence, and in that aspect he did well. But it was not enough to make one forget about others in the part over the years, and I could not help but remember Carlos Chausson. The second Don Geronio was Pietro Spagnoli, whose performance was not convincing. He is not the basso buffo that the role requires.

Prosdocimo the poet was sung by baritone Florian Sempey, who gave a good performance. He has an important voice and moves easily on stage. The second poet was Mattia Olivieri, who offered an exaggerated interpretation. I do not think his voice is adequate for the character, although in another role he might do better.

Don Narciso was tenor Edgardo Rocha, who impressed in his arias, although his voice is that of a tenorino. In my opinion Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani as Narciso fell below what is required in a first-class theater.

Paola Gardina was well-suited to the part of Zaida, as was Chiara Amarù, and Pablo García-López was correct as Albazar.

José M. Irurzun

Leave a Comment