'L'Italiana in Algeri' in Arizona,
enjoyed by MARIA NOCKIN
Gioacchino Rossini was only 21 years old when he wrote L'italiana in Algeri ('The Italian Girl in Algiers'). His previous work, Tancredi, was a tremendous success in Venice, so when another composer could not produce a promised piece for a Venetian theater on time, Rossini was prevailed upon to write an opera as quickly as possible. He and librettist Angelo Anelli decided to use the libretto that the writer had supplied for Luigi Mosca's L'italiana in Algeri which had been staged five years earlier at La Scala in Milan. It had never been seen in Venice.
For the new opera, Anelli and Rossini made some changes in the original book for the Mosca opera. They cut a duet for Lindoro and Isabella, inserted an aria for the mezzo-soprano and added more comedy to the ensembles. The new work received its première at the Teatro San Benedetto in Venice on 22 May 1813. 
Lisanne Norman as Elvira and Francois Loup as Mustafà in the Arizona Opera production of 'L'Italiana in Algeri'. Photo © Tim Fuller
The singers who created the roles were extremely capable and the vocal lines in the score reflect their abilities. Because artists of their caliber are not easily found, the opera is not performed as often as audiences might like. Maria Marcolini, sometime mistress of Prince Lucien Bonaparte and a tremendously capable coloratura alto, was the first Isabella. Mustafà was sung by Filippo Galli, the finest bass of his day, and the part of Lindoro was created by the popular bel canto tenor, Serafino Gentili.
Sandra Piques Eddy as Isabella and Barry Banks as Lindoro in the Arizona Opera production of 'L'Italiana in Algeri'. Photo © Tim Fuller
L'italiana was the first of Rossini's many opera to be performed in Germany and France. Its popularity assured the young musician's position as an important composer of Italian opera.
Copyright © 12 March 2006
Maria Nockin, Arizona USA