Rossini’s fusion of melody, comedy, and vocal fireworks make L’Italiana in Algeri one of opera’s best loved comedies, and have established its permanent place in the operatic canon.
Elvira is upset that her husband, the Turkish Bey Mustafa, no longer loves her. Mustafa reveals that he wants to marry his wife off to his Italian slave Lindoro because he wants an Italian woman instead.
Lindoro sings of his love for Isabella, though he finds out that he is set to marry Elvira.
A ship arrives at Algiers after being wrecked by a storm. It is Isabella looking for Lindoro. She is accompanied by Taddeo, who is in love with her. Haly, the right-hand man for Mustafa takes the two prisoners.
Mustafa offers Lindoro passage to Italy if he promises to marry Elvira. He agrees. Just then, Isabella arrives, though she finds Mustafa’s appearances amusing. Lindoro runs into her as he is about to depart with his supposed new wife, creating confusion.
Left alone, Lindoro and Isabella clear everything up and agree to escape together. Mustafa enters, ready to seduce Isabella, but it all winds up a mess for him. Eventually, Mustafa is convinced to become a “pappataci” in an official ceremony. He must swear an oath of eating, drinking, and keeping silent. He is then tested on his oath. A European ship arrives and they all escape.
The Bey realizes that he has been tricked, but it is too late. He apologizes to his wife and everyone gets a happy ending.
"The Italian Girl in Algiers"
Opera in 2 acts
Sung in Italian
About 2 hours 30 min + interval
Algiers, the past
The palace of the Bey of Algiers
Elvira accompanied by her slave Zulma regrets the loss of the love of her husband, the Turkish Bey Mustafà. Left alone with Haly (since the Italian 'h' is silent, this corresponds to the name Ali, more familiar in the English-speaking world), Captain of the Corsairs, Mustafà reveals his plan to marry Elvira off to Lindoro, his Italian slave. The Bey is bored with his submissive harem, desiring a new challenge to his virility: he wants an Italian girl, and Haly must find one! Lindoro enters alone and sings about Isabella, his true love (Languir per una bella). Mustafà comes in to explain Lindoro's impending marriage. The enthusiastic Bey describes the attractions of the match, while Lindoro struggles to refuse (Se inclinassi a prender moglie).
A ship has been wrecked in a storm. Its passengers include Isabella, in search of Lindoro, and Taddeo, her travelling companion and would-be lover. Isabella enters with a sorrowful cavatina Cruda sorte! Amor tiranno!, however she is not afraid (Già so per pratica) and will master the situation. Haly and his men take them prisoner. She passes off Taddeo as her uncle. Haly is delighted to learn she is an Italian – exactly what the Bey wanted! Left to consider their fate, Isabella is irritated by Taddeo's jealousy of Lindoro (Ai capricci della sorte), but they resolve to join forces.
Back in the palace, Lindoro and Elvira do not wish to marry, but Mustafà offers Lindoro passage on a ship returning to Italy if he takes Elvira. Lindoro agrees, admitting a vague possibility of marrying her in Italy. Haly enters with news of the arrival of the Italian beauty. Mustafà is elated (Già d'insolito ardore nel petto agitare).
Surrounded by eunuchs (Viva, viva il flagel delle donne), Mustafà receives Isabella in a grand hall. He is enchanted, though she is rather amused by his appearance (Oh! Che muso, che figura!). At that moment, Lindoro, Elvira and Zulma arrive to say goodbye to Mustafà (Pria di dividerci da voi, Signore). Lindoro and Isabella are astonished to come face to face. Recovering herself, Isabella asks about Elvira, learning she is Mustafà's ex-wife, to be remarried to Lindoro! The act ends with an ensemble of confusion (Confusi e stupidi).
In the palace
Elvira and Zulma (who have remained in Algiers after all) note Isabella's skill with men. Mustafà reveals his strategy for seducing Isabella: he installs Lindoro as Isabella's servant and his informer, and Taddeo will also be induced to help. Elvira and Zulma must tell Isabella he is coming to take coffee with her.
Isabella and Lindoro are alone. He explains that he had no intention of marrying Elvira. They agree to escape together and Lindoro sings of his happiness (Ah come il cor di giubilo). Mustafà enters with a reluctant Taddeo, acclaimed by the Turks as "Lord Kaimakan" (Viva il grande Kaimakan). He dislikes interceding with Isabella for the Bey, but is frightened to refuse (Ho un gran peso sulla testa).
In her apartment
Isabella is dressing in Turkish style. Zulma and Elvira deliver Mustafà's message: he is coming for coffee. Isabella orders three cups. Elvira should wait in a side room. As Mustafà approaches, Isabella sings a romantic cavatina, Per lui che adoro - she will receive him. Mustafà tells Taddeo to leave when he sneezes (Ti presento di mia man). Isabella greets Mustafà warmly and he sneezes, but Taddeo ignores the signal. Isabella calls for coffee and then – to Mustafà's horror and amazement – invites Elvira to join them.
Elsewhere in the palace
Haly sings in praise of the women of Italy (Le femmine d'Italia). The Italians enter, and Taddeo reveals to a surprised Lindoro that he is not her uncle but her lover (he himself is unaware of the other man's true identity). Lindoro tells Mustafà that Isabella will declare him her adored pappataci (literally a "silent eater": a man unable to resist the opposite sex). This, as Lindoro explains (Pappataci! Che mai sento!), is an Italian custom and a great honour, as the pappataci enjoy an idyllic life dedicated to eating, drinking and sleeping. Zulma and Haly speculate about Isabella's real intentions and the quantity of alcohol ordered for the ceremony.
She addresses the Italian slaves who will be pappataci in the ceremony - she will lead them to freedom (Pensa alla patria). The ceremony begins (Dei pappataci s'avanza il coro); Mustafà is delighted with his new honour and changes into appropriate costume. Isabella explains his obligations. He must swear an oath of eating, drinking, and keeping silent, repeating the words after Taddeo. Following that his oath is tested, under provocation by Isabella and Lindoro.
A European ship lies alongside the palace: time to escape! Taddeo finally realizes who Lindoro is, but decides to go along with them anyway. Elvira, Zulma and Haly find the Bey still acting as a mad pappataci. Suddenly recovering his sanity, Mustafà calls his troops but they are all drunk. The Italians bid farewell and Mustafà begs Elvira's forgiveness. No more Italian girls for him!
Isabella – Mezzo-soprano/Contralto (lyric)
The Italian girl
Lindoro – Tenor (leggiero)
In love with Isabella
Taddeo – Bass-baritone
An elderly Italian
Mustafà – Bass (buffo)
The Bey of Algiers
Elvira – Soprano (lyric coloratura)
Zulma – Mezzo-soprano
Haly – Tenor or Bass
The captain of the Bey's guard
Place of birth: Pesaro, Italy
place of death: Paris, France
Gioachino Rossini was an Italian composer known for shaping the style of Bel canto together with Bellini and Donizetti. He was born in Pesaro in a musical family and started music school in Bologna at the age of 12. His father was a trumpeter and his mother was a singer. During his career he wrote 39 operas, sacred music, chamber music, piano pieces and songs.
Rossini married the singer Isabella Colbran in 1822. It was a difficult marriage. Rossini wrote many roles for her, but her voice gradually declined and she was forced to retire. It put a strain on their relationship. They lived separately from 1830 when Rossini met Olympe Pélissier who was to become his future wife. In 1835 Rossini and Colbran officially divorced and 10 years later he married Pélissier who was his wife until his death. Rossini died in Paris after an unsuccessful operation to treat colorectal cancer at the age of 76.
Rossini was a very productive composer, writing on an average 2 operas per year for 19 years. However, for the last 40 years of his life he didn’t compose a single opera. It’s unknown why he stopped, but perhaps his declining health or financial security thanks to earlier successes gives us a clue. His most popular opera is Il barbiere di Siviglia, one of his many comic operas.
"Give me a laundry-list and I'll set it to music."
He was a celebrity during his lifetime. He suffered from insomnia. He met with Beethoven in 1822.
Most prominent operas
Angelo Anelli was an Italian poet and librettist. From 1799 to 1817, Anello was one of the house librettists at La Scala.
Anelli is most known for writing the libretto for L'italiana in Algeri. It is based on Anelli's earlier text set by the composer Luigi Mosca in 1808.
2, 2, 2, 2 - 2, 2, 1, 0
timp, perc, piano, strings
L'italiana in Algeri premiered at the Teatro San Benedetto in Venice in 1813.
Today it is one of the top 50 most performed operas worldwide.
Aria - Languir per una bella (Lindoro)
Duet – Se inclinassi a prender moglie (Lindoro, Mustafà)
Aria – Cruda sorte, amor tiranno (Isabella)
Aria - Per lui che adoro (Isabella)