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Unlike many operatic pashas and beys, this Mustafà is brute enough to deserve any nonsense that Isabella can devise against him. He certainly should not have the moping Elvira back, but that's her business. Meanwhile he tries his best to palm her off on his Italian slave Lindoro, who is of course pining for Elvira, not imagining for a moment that she has just been washed up with all her wits about her on a nearby beach [listen -- CD 1 track 6, 0:00-1:20].

In the first finale, a champagne ensemble of fizzing vitality, Isabella and Lindoro recognise each other, the one apparently to be the Bey's latest conquest, the other about to depart to Italy for marriage to his ex-wife. Isabella will, of course, have none of it and insists imperiously that local divorce laws must be repealed; otherwise, how could she love the Bey? By now most of the cast are 'confusi e stupidi', while the women of the harem feel their brains are topsy-turvy and their increasingly stalwart eunuchs sense imminent shipwreck. All depends on the measure of Isabella, a mezzo heroine of infinite resource, both vocal and intellectual [listen -- CD 1 track 15, 7:42-9:09].

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Copyright © 9 May 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK


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