Gioachino Rossini

L'italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers), opera

    Description by Erik Eriksson

    The year 1813 proved a productive one for Rossini, with four important works for four different theaters. Il Signor Bruschino was premiered in January at the Teatro San Moisè in Venice, Tancredi was produced at Venice's La Fenice in February, and Aureliano in Palmira was introduced at Milan's La Scala in December. In between came an opera that nearly didn't happen. Rossini's La Pietra del Paragone (1812) was announced for a revival, but the Teatro San Benedetto in Venice used Rossini's second act only, substituting a first act drawn from the work of another composer. It was not a success. Meanwhile, Carlo Coccia, who had accepted a commission to compose an opera for that theater, apparently ran into difficulty in completing his assignment. Rossini accepted the offer from the theater's impresario and wrote L'Italiana in Algeri in less than a month. Given the tight schedule, the composer turned to a libretto already in existence, one by Angelo Anelli, already set by Luigi Mosca.

    Although Rossini was likely familiar with Mosca's opera, significant additions and changes were made to the libretto, quite possibly by Gaetano Rossi. The 21-year-old composer elected to go for broke with the effects of his ensemble writing. The impression made by the breathless piling up of rhythmic patterns using repeated consonants is often deliriously funny. The opera was premiered on May 22, 1813, to applause that, according to one critic, "thundered without pause."

    L'Italiana was the first of several important Rossini comic operas to hold prominent roles for lower female voices. While voices were less rigidly categorized than they were to become in the twentieth century, Rossini clearly wrote for what we now call a coloratura mezzo-soprano. The deeper, fuller sound he had in mind lends a greater piquancy and strength to figures such as L'Italiana's Isabella, Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and Angelina in La Cenerentola.

    The protagonist in L'Italiana is a determined Italian lady who travels to Algiers to search for her lover Lindoro, kidnapped and held as a slave by Mustafà, the Bey of Algiers. Isabella's wit and charm prove too much for Mustafà and his retinue, and she is able to escape with Lindoro at the end, leaving the Bey fuming until he realizes there is nothing to be done. The role of the Bey is a gift for that rare bass with agility, comic presence, and a gift for rapid patter.

    L'Italiana, though often performed, existed in manuscript only until the Ricordi publishing house offered a printed score toward the end of the nineteenth century. Numerous errors and modifications had crept in by then, however, and a more accurate documentation of the composer's intentions was not made available to performing organizations until the critical edition was researched and prepared by the Rossini Foundation in the late twentieth century.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Overture
    2. No. 2, Serenate il mesto ciglio
    3. No. 3, Il mio schiavo italian
    4. No. 4, Languir per una bella
    5. No. 5a, Ah, quando fia
    6. No. 5b, Se inclinassi a prender moglie
    7. No. 6a, Quanto roba!
    8. No. 6b, Cruda sorte!
    9. No. 7, Misericordia
    10. No. 8a, Ah! Isabella
    11. No. 8b, Ai capricci della sorte
    12. No. 9a, E ricusar potresti
    13. No. 9b, Ascoltami, italiano
    14. No. 9c, Dunque degg'io lasciarvi?
    15. No. 10, Gia d'insolito
    16. No. 11a, Viva, viva
    17. No. 11b, O! Che muse
    18. No. 12a, Vo' star con mia
    19. No. 12b, Pria di dividerci
    20. No. 13a, Uno stupido
    21. No. 13b, Amiche, andate a dir all'italiana
    22. No. 13c, Qual disdetta
    23. No. 14, Ah, come il cor di giubilo
    24. No. 15a, Viva il grande Kaimakan
    25. No. 15b, Ho un gran peso
    26. No. 16a, Dunque a momenti
    27. No. 16b, Per lui che adoro
    28. No. 17a, Io non resisto più
    29. No. 17b, Ti presento di mia man
    30. No. 18a, Con tutta la sua boria
    31. No. 18b, La femmine d'Italia
    32. No. 19, E tu speri di togliere Isabella
    33. No. 20, Orsu, la tua nipote
    34. No. 21a, Pappataci
    35. No. 21b, Voi mi deste
    36. No. 22, E può la tua padrone
    37. No. 23a, Tutti i nostri Italiani
    38. No. 23b, Pronti abbbiamo
    39. No. 23c, Amici, in ogni evento
    40. No. 23d, Pensa alla patria
    41. No. 23e, Qual piacer!
    42. No. 24a, Che bel cor
    43. No. 24b, Dei Pappataci
    44. No. 25a, Non sei tu che il grado eletto
    45. No. 25b, Son l'aure seconde
    46. No. 25c, Mio Signore
    47. No. 26, Concedi, concedi, amor pietoso (Additional aria)

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2014 Urania / Urania Records WS 121235
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon / Universal / Universal Distribution
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 4790125
    2011 EMI Classics
    2010 Naxos 8660284-85
    2010 Urania 33006
    2009 Sony Music Distribution 88697579082
    2008 DA Records / Zebralution
    2008 GOP Great Opera Performances 66378
    2008 Belair Classiques 25
    2007 TDK DVWW-OPITAL
    2007 Decca 000829502
    2007 Dynamic 526/1-2
    2006 Myto Records 64331
    2006 Gala Records 100765
    2006 Opera D'Oro 7023
    2005 Arts Music 43048
    2005 Urania 275
    2003 Myto Records 32279
    2003 Opera D'Oro 1382
    1998 Opera D'Oro 1146
    1998 Teldec 17130
    1995 Deutsche Grammophon 445552
    1995 Mercury 434345
    1995 Seraphim UK 69039
    1991 Erato 45404
    1990 Sony Music Distribution 39048
    1989 Decca 417828
    1989 Deutsche Grammophon 427331
    Palladio 4214
    Pantheon 664647
    Opera Italia 12
    Great Opera Performances 740
    Pantheon 6646
    Arkadia 469
    Mondo Musica 10704
    Pilz 42308
    Deutsche Grammophon 0734261
    Le Monde de l'Opera 36
    Arkadia 953