Cathy Desmond reviews the opera L’Italiana in Algeri at Lismore Castle.
Blackwater Valley Music Festival has changed its name and extended the recital component of the programme with more opportunities to hear music in various historic houses in the west Waterford area.
The centrepiece of the festivities remains the opera production in a pop-up theatre in the courtyard stables of the splendid Lismore Castle. At the opening on Wednesday, a balmy evening provided the perfect ambiance for the Mediterranean setting of Rossini’s early comic opera, L’Italiana in Algeri.
Arriving in the upper gardens to see champagne glinting in the evening sunshine was as though one had entered an enchanted other world.
Composed when Rossini was just 21, The Italian Girl in Algiers has arguably the daftest plot in the opera canon. It tells the story of the feisty Isabella who finds herself shipwrecked in Islamic territory and outwits a lecherous Ottoman ruler who is duped into joining the Pappataci, a dubious spaghetti-eating sect.
Pierre-Emmanuel Rousseau’s production presents Mustafa as the owner of an international hotel and Isabella as a glamourous fashion model. The stables get a Moorish make-over and the concept works very well. The production is delightfully over the top as the cast embrace the silliness of it all and turn in fine slapstick comic performances throughout. A 12- strong chorus from DIT adds much to the texture.
The cast sparkle across the ensemble. Rachel Kelly makes light work of the coloratura in her debut in the title role. Puerto Rican tenor Javier Abreu returns to Lismore as her lover Lindoro. Rory Musgrave as Taddeo and Rachel Croash as the spurned Elvira show off their comic flair.
Star of the show was the Italian baritone Leonardo Galeazzi who oozes oily charm as the gun-toting gullible Mustafa. Marco Zambelli conducted the fine ensemble with Italian panache.
Burning torches lighting the pathway to the castle gate was the final ingredient in a spell-binding evening.