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Side view of theater at dusk with white baffles

"The Italian Girl in Algiers": Never Underestimate Her

By Mark Tiarks

“The Italian Girl in Algiers”: Never Underestimate Her

What’s an Italian Girl to do when her boyfriend has been captured in Algiers? Simple! Strap on her leather flight helmet (Gucci, of course), stride out to her Fiat Aviazione biplane, kick the Pirellis, and soar across the Mediterranean to rescue him.

Isabella touches down not far from the palazzo of Mustafà, Bay of Algiers, where Lindoro is being held. When Mustafà spies the Italian Girl, it’s lust at first sight, and he’s determined to trade in his current concubine for the newer and more aerodynamic imported model. He gets a lot more than he bargained for, because the coolly confident Isabella is a masterful manipulator of men. “I know exactly how to train them… they’re all more or less alike anyway!” With cannonades of vocal aerobatics and knock-about comedy worthy of the Marx Brothers, Isabella soon hoodwinks Mustafà and escapes with Lindoro.

Not so long ago, Rossini was considered a one-and-a-half hit wonder. The Barber of Seville was internationally acclaimed, but his other operas were infrequently performed. The partial exception — the overture to William Tell— was heard only in concert halls, cartoons, and commercials. Today we see him as his own audiences did, a composer of wonderful serious operas and many exceptional comedies.

Rossini’s career took off in 1813, at age 21, with one masterpiece from each genre. First came Tancredi, a “heroic opera,” followed three months later by The Italian Girl, which was an immediate smash hit. The composer himself described its giddy audiences as “even crazier than I am,” and no less a fan than Richard Strauss later said he was “mad with enthusiasm” for it.

Daniela Mack — Santa Fe’s Carmen in 2014 and one of today’s most celebrated mezzo-sopranos — returns as Isabella, flanked by tenor Jack Swanson as Lindoro and bass Scott Conner as Mustafà. Shawna Lucey stages the cast in our charming “pop-up book” production, originally seen in 2002, with Corrado Rovaris on the podium. The Italian Girl in Algiers touches down for just five performances next summer, so don’t try flying standby — order your tickets now, while there are plenty of aisle and window seats left!