Love, infidelity and comedic drama are in the air in Gioachino Rossini’s ‘Il turco in Italia’, to be staged by Monte-Carlo Opera this month.
This drama buffo per musica, set to a libretto by Felice Romani, stars Monte-Carlo Opera’s director designate, Cecilia Bartoli as the flirtatious young Neapolitan, Fiorilla, with Adrian Sâmpetrean as Selim, the wealthy Turk of the opera’s title, to whom she is attracted. Fiorilla’s husband, Don Geronio is sung by Nicola Alaimo, Barry Banks takes the role of Don Narciso, the knight serving Fiorilla (who is also her lover), the gypsy Zaida is José Maria Lo Monaco, her friend Albazar is David Astorga, and Giovanni Romeo is the poet and author Prosdocimo.
The plot revolves around the activities that arise when Prosdocimo sees a gypsy camp near the harbour as a means of relieving his writer’s block. There he meets the gypsy Zaida, and learns that she is living in hiding, having fled the harem of Prince Selim, following accusations of infidelity by a rival. The Prince himself coincidentally disembarks from a visiting ship, returns the flirtatious advances of Fiorilla, and Prosdocimo realises that the Turk is in fact the Prince with whom Zaida is still in love. He now has the perfect outline for his comedy.
Events then move fast. Geronio interrupts his wife’s assignation with Selim – with whom she plans to elope – Selim sees Zaida and recognises her as his former lover, jealousy erupts – and Prosdocimo is delighted with the ensuing cat-fight! Fiorilla, determined to force Selim to choose between her and Zaida, sees a forthcoming masked ball as their chance to elope, but Prosdocimo tells Gerionio of their plans, and Geronio, Zaida, Fiorilla, Selim and Narciso all turn up in the same costumes. The four young lovers all successfully make their escape, although not necessarily with the correct partners, and ultimately, as tends to happen with comedies, all is resolved – and Prosdocimo has his happy ending.
Since her debut in 1987, multi-award-winning mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli has frequently appeared on the stages of the world’s leading opera houses, concert halls and festivals in Europe, the USA, Asia and Australia. Venues include the Metropolitan Opera New York, London’s Royal Opera House, Zurich’s Opera House, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, the Philharmonie de Paris, Vienna’s Musikverein, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and the Berlin Philharmonic Hall. Also a highly successful recording artist, Ms Bartoli has served as artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival since 2012, a contract which was recently extended until 2026, and since 2016 she has worked with Les Musiciens du Prince – Monaco, an orchestra formed at her initiative and granted the generous patronage of the princely family of Monaco.
Romanian bass Adrian Sâmpetrean has previously sung the role of Selim at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. Since his debut at the Romanian National Opera Cluj-Napoca, he has appeared at many of the major opera houses in Europe, such as the Bavarian State Opera Munich, Teatro Comunale Bologna, Opéra de Monte Carlo, the Staatsoper Berlin, Opéra de Paris, Teatro alla Scala, Arena di Verona, Teatro La Fenice and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. He has also sung at the Salzburg Festival, the Bolshoi Theatre Moscow and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. His future engagements include appearances at Opera Natională Bucureṣti, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Teatro de San Carlo and De Nationale Opera Amsterdam.
José Maria Lo Monaco, with what the Sydney Morning Herald describes as “… a full-bodied mezzo soprano voice, fiery in the top register and smouldering in lower”, is well known as an interpreter of the bel canto repertoire, having starred as Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège, as Giovanna Seymour in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena and Elisabetta in Maria Stuarda at the Bergamo Donizetti Festival. Among her career highlights are the roles of Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte at Teatro La Fenice, Cherubino in his Le Nozze di Figaro at both La Fenice and Beijing NCPA, Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther in Bologna and Giulietta in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Naples Teatro San Carlo.
Baritone Nicola Alaimo is no stranger either to the role of Don Geronio, or to Monte-Carlo Opera. He sang Don Geronio in a concert performance at the closing performance of the 2015 Rossini Opera Festival, and in the same year appeared at Monte-Carlo Opera in the title role of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell – which he has also sung for Dutch National Opera, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, La Coruña, and in a concert performance at La Monnaie in Brussels. Other highlights of his career include appearances at the Ravenna Festival, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, the Metropolitan Opera, Opéra Bastille in Paris, Milan’s La Scala, the Teatro Real in Madrid the Opéra National de Paris, the Salzburg Festival and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Giovanni Romeo’s portrayal of Dr Bartolo in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia opened the door to his appearance in major opera houses in Italy – such as Teatro alla Scala – and abroad. He has also appeared on the stages of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Monte-Carlo Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, the NCPA in Beijing, ABAO in Bilbao, Royal Opera House Muscat and Spain’s Opera de Oviedo. He has participated in some of the most important international opera projects for young singers, such as “l’Ópera Estudio” in Tenerife, as well as in festivals such as the “Young Singer Project” in Salzburg, the Donizetti Festival in Bergamo and the “Vicenza Festival in lirica”.
Gianluco Capuano leads Les Musiciens du Prince-Monaco and the Chorus of the Monte-Carlo Opera (director Stefano Visconti) in Jean-Louis Grinda’s staging of ‘Il turco in Italia’. The opening Gala at the Salle Garnier takes place on 21st January, and further performances will take place on the 23rd, 25th and 27th January. For further information, visit the Monte-Carlo Opera website, and online tickets are available here.
Lead image courtesy Opéra de Monte-Carlo, all other photos as credited