Tulsa Opera sparkles in comic opera “The Italian Girl”
Tulsa Opera is celebrating its 75th anniversary this season, and the company has chosen to kick off the festivities with an opera it has never performed before – Gioachino Rossini’s “L’Italiana de Algeri” or “The Italian Girl in Algiers.”
This production is also the first time that Tulsa Opera has performed one of its major productions at VanTrease PACE, the performing arts complex on the southeast campus of Tulsa Community College.
The change of venue is strictly a matter of logistics – a certain Disney musical had already “frozen” dates at the opera’s usual home, the Tulsa PAC – but it’s a change that works in the company’s favor. company. (We attended the dress rehearsal on Wednesday.)
“The Italian Girl,” as the Tulsa Opera prefers to call the piece, is one of Rossini’s most frothy confections, a comic opera of supreme silliness that benefits greatly from the relative intimacy and sharp acoustics of the main theater of the VanTrease.
People also read…
The story is typically far-fetched: Mustafa, the Bey, or ruler, of Algeria (Ashraf Sewailam), has grown weary of the affections of his wife Elvira (Abigail Raiford) and decides that the only thing that can spice up his love life is to add an italian girl — any Italian girl – to her harem.
He will send the woman away with his Italian servant Lindoro (Aaron Crouch), who can fulfill all the functions of a husband, and sends his chief privateer Ali (V. Savoy McIlwain) to find an Italian girl in six days. Or else.
By chance, a ship carrying an Italian woman named Isabella (Allegra De Vita) runs aground on the Algerian coast. Ali takes her and her traveling companion Taddeo (Robert Mellon) into custody, telling her she is bound for the Bey’s boudoir.
Isabella, however, is baffled by this turn of events, especially when she finds out that the man she fetched at sea, her fiancé Lindoro, is also caught up in Mustafa’s marital fray. “In Italy,” Isabella notes, “it is the women who train the men,” and she works not only to humiliate Mustafa but also to free all the Italians trapped in Algeria.
Director Kimille Howard stages the action with a keen sense of comedic flair, allowing the antics to slowly build up to the cartoonish finale. She also kept the onstage action in near-constant motion—much like Rossini’s music—with the chorus and extras reacting to onstage silliness; one of the supernumeraries, MaKayla Baxter, was particularly effective in her comedic antics.
De Vita, who wowed Tulsa audiences with her performance as Maddalena in 2020’s “Rigoletto,” is marvelous in a very different role as the cunning Isabella, whom she recoils from Mustafa’s attentions, determining how she will overcome any adversity in “Già so per pratica”, or encourage his compatriots in “Pensa alla patria”.
Raiford, a Tulsa native and current member of the opera’s Filstrup Artist-in-Residence program, displays a powerful and luxurious soprano voice, as well as a wonderfully comedic way of crying, like the unfortunate Elvira.
As Lindoro, Crouch embodied the character’s youthful innocence well, and his singing has a bell-like clarity, but he didn’t seem to have as much power as his colleagues (it’s possible, as this was a rehearsal general, that Crouch chose not to sing at the top of his voice). On the other hand, the bass-baritones Sewailam and Mellon push their clowning to the limit, while delivering Rossini’s rapid and free crackling with aplomb.
Leslie Dunner led the Tulsa Opera Orchestra in a performance full of color and brilliance, and who spurred action onstage with her energy. Lyndon Meyer, who prepared the all-male choir, was also the orchestra’s harpsichordist.
The sets and costumes were originally created for the Sarasota Opera Association by Michael Schweikardt and Howard Tsvi Kaplan, respectively. Deanna Byford designed the lighting and Amanda Clark created the hairstyles and makeup.
“The Italian Girl” premieres at 7:30 p.m. Friday, October 28 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, October 30 at VanTrease PACE, 10300 E. 81st St., Tulsa Community College’s Southeast Campus. For tickets: 918-595-7777, www.tulsaopera.com. To get a 30% discount on tickets, use the code IGFamPrice.
Tulsa World Scene Podcast: Goodbye McRib? Favorite Halloween candies?