Small picture of Donizetti




Rossini  Il turco in Italia

Buxton Festival, July 9-25, 2004.

(Thanks to the Buxton Festival for providing the pictures below)

Rossini’s opera was a failure when first performed, usually ascribed to the audience believing they were being served up warmed over L’Italiana in Algeri.  The opera, set in Naples, follows the fortunes of an old husband, Don Geronio, his flighty wife, Fiorilla, her admirer, Don Narciso,  an exotic visitor, Selim the Turk, who rapidly becomes infatuated with Fiorilla and Selim’s past love, Zaida, who has been forced to flee to Naples, unbeknown to Selim.  As would be expected, husband and wife are eventually reconciled, Don Narciso seeks fresh pastures and Selim departs back to Turkey with Zaida.  Rossini and Romani, starting from an earlier libretto by Mazzolà,  turn this rather predictable material into Rossini’s most original comedy by adding a poet, Prosdocimo, who is trying to concoct a libretto and realises that all he needs to do is to record the goings on around him. His comments and asides are what give the opera its continuity and much of its comic force, for example, in the rather surreal trio where the husband and supplanted admirer both complain to the poet about his treatment of them in the story.

The opera was arguably Buxton’s most polished production to date. Giles Havergal’s direction was pacy and engaging without allowing the comedy to descend into overplayed farce and he leavened it effectively with the opera’s sentimental moments.  Russell Craig and John Bishop (Designer and Lighting Designer) gave us strong, bold, colours and costumes with a picture postcard backdrop that complemented the vivid if two-dimensional story being portrayed.

The opera played to Buxton strengths of conviviality and energetic teamwork rather than outstanding virtuosity.  Although Fiorilla was originally written for soprano, it has been sung, as here, by a mezzo, Michelle Walton, who together with Jeremy Huw Williams (the poet), Donald Maxwell (Don Geronio), Tim Mirfin (Selim), Zaida (Margaret Preece) and Nicolas Sales (Don Narciso) more than met the opera's demands, the latter, in particular, singing with much feeling on the few occasions when Rossini allowed a pause in the comedy.  If there was any criticism, it was that articulation was rather smudgy at times so that some of Andrew Porter’s translation was lost. Wyn Davies and the Northern Chamber Orchestra and the Buxton Festival Chorus provided excellent support.

The contagious high spirits and witty production glossed over the fact that the music is not particularly memorable, even though reminding one from time to time of Rossini’s music past and future, so that, although Il turco was definitely well worth the airing, it is not difficult to see why it has not achieved the familiarity of other Rossini comedies.






Fiorilla (Michelle Walton) and Selim (Tim Mirfin) get down to business with the poet (Jeremy Huw Williams) checking that his story is proceeding as expected.










Zaida (Margaret Preece) with the chorus
















 Zaida (Margaret Preece) and the chorus



Selim (Tim Mirfin) in a good example of Russell Craig's vivid staging.


 Don Geronio (Donald Maxwell)




Page initially published in  2004