Il Turco in Italia
Re-Production Theater an der Wien, Cooperation Bayerische Staatsoper, München
A great sense of humour: that was what the 22-year-old Gioachino Rossini and his librettist Felice Romani exhibited when, in 1814, they wrote the amusing and satirical opera Il Turco in Italia for La scala in Milan, to some extent as a response to and variation on the “Turkish opera” L’Italiana in Algeri. The man behind the work is the uninspired poet Prosdocimo who is waiting for inspiration when he suddenly finds himself caught up in the midst of a tangle of relationships that proves that the funniest stories are those that happen in real life.
Fiorilla has had enough of her husband Don Geronio. But she has long since tired of her lover Don Narciso as well. So the rich Turk Selim, who is in Italy looking for amorous adventures, seems to be the answer to her prayers. Selim is happy to indulge Fiorilla’s affections but is unwilling to give up his previous love Zaida, who suddenly appears to win back her husband. Following scenes of jealousy, attempts at wife-swapping and abduction, a masked ball, confusion and reconciliation everything resolves itself in a happy ending: Selim returns home with Zaida, Fiorilla goes repentantly back to Don Geronio and Don Narciso devotes himself to his pursuit of amorous conquests again.
Rossini’s vivacious music makes use of the comedy provided by the situations and the language in the libretto and its melodic inventiveness allows both singers and orchestra to express themselves with flair and verve. It is not the strict logic of the plot that is central to the music; instead Rossini emphasises jumps in the plot by exaggerating extremes of emotion to the point of caricature with his music, making them clearly audible.