Scottish Opera: Italian Girl in Algiers
- Carol Main
- 2 October 2009
She takes a trip to Scotland too this autumn
Sun-kissed blondes in bikinis aren’t the usual types found on the world’s operatic stage. Especially bouncing up and down on a spacehopper. Scottish Opera’s new co-production with New Zealand Opera of Rossini’s The Italian Girl in Algiers is a bit different. In it, Algiers is a popular Latino soap, and the opera is set in a TV studio during filming. Following the lives and loves of the Mediterranean jet set, action keeps going even when the cameras have stopped rolling.
Singing the role of Haly, whose 19th century captain of the sea-pirates role is updated to that of bodyguard, is bass Paul Carey Jones. ‘The piece is very much rooted in traditional commedia dell’arte, but what’s great about a modern production is that there is a choice of either presenting it completely faithfully to the period of its composition, or to try to interpret the composer’s intentions for the audience of the day.’ Colin McColl’s updating has already been seen in New Zealand where audiences picked up on his interpretation straight away. Treating the music with the respect it deserves, McColl has succeeded, says Carey Jones, ‘in creating the feeling that the concept has grown from what the opera is really about, from within the opera, and not been imposed upon it.’
Composed by Rossini when he was 21 in the space of around three weeks, the opera’s main character is Mustafa, a sultan complete with harem but who has his eye on Isabella, the Italian girl of the title. In the updating, he becomes a Hugh Hefner-type figure. ‘The challenge for us is to maintain the great precision and energy of Rossini’s music without being constricted by it,’ says Carey Jones, ‘so that the music reinforces the concept and the concept reinforces the music.’
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Wed 21, Sun 25, Thu 29 & Sat 31 Oct; Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Sat 21, Wed 25 & Fri 27 Nov