GRAMLyndebourneThe second production of the season is a new staging by Mariame Clément de RossiniThe 1814 comedy Il Turco in Italy. Sometimes described as anticipating Pirandello, it is about an author, Prosdocimo, who wanders Naples in search of characters and eventually finds material in his observations of the romance between the Turk Selim and the gloriously promiscuous Fiorilla, who already plays her husband. Geronio. against her lover, Narcissus, but she can always find the time to fit another man into her life, somehow.
It may not be a production for purists. Clément plays fast and loose with the basic idea, spinning it around so that the opera becomes an ironic depiction of a best-selling novelist’s relationship with his characters, now much more imaginary than drawn from life. So first we meet Prosdocimo (Alessio Arduini) surrounded by adoring fans at a book signing, then we follow him to his apartment, where he will soon hit his typewriter as his characters materialize around him.
Initially they prove to be subject to his changes, corrections and rewrites, which we see projected behind him, so when he decides to move the period of his book from the 19th century (“not sexy”) to the 1950s (“neorealist”), Fiorilla (Elena Tsallagova) and Geronio (Rodion Pogossov) are forced to change their clothes in the middle of the scene, and Selim (Nahuel di Pierro, not very different Marcello mastroianni) ditch the Ottoman chic for leather and jeans. Little by little, however, the characters begin to relate to their creator and, by the time we get to the second act, they have effectively developed their own lives. Prosdocimo’s apartment is replaced by the delicatessen that the fictional Geronio runs with Narciso (Michele Angelini) as his assistant, and where Fiorilla gives the costume party (Covid-secure, a nice touch) that causes the final crisis in his relationship with her . husband.
It’s all wonderfully engaging and a lot of fun, although what ultimately makes the evening so special is the exceptional cast. Tsallagova is an outstanding Fiorilla, light-toned, self-assured, and coldly manipulative until supporter Geronio de Pogossov begins to tire: her final reconciliation duo, as Arduini’s sage Prosdocimo watches and comments with satisfaction, is largely a high point. Di Pierro, for his part, makes a charismatic, handsome-sounding Selim, while Angelini is simply spectacular in his two great arias, which Rossini wrote to appease a star tenor in the original cast.
Sesto Quatrini conducts with considerable impetus, and the London Philharmonic plays for him with tremendous precision. Chasing away the shadows of confinement, it’s a perfect escapism and brilliantly done.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism