Rossini’s Turco in Italia in Ravenna

Il Turco in Italia is one of my favourite Rossini operas. In addition to the brilliant score, there is the Pirandellian device of having a poet commenting on the characters and interacting with them, to see if he can influence their behaviour and destiny. For that device to function effectively, he must be seen to enter and leave the dramatic framework. In the production by Federico Bertolani, currently presented at the Teatro Dante Alghieri in Ravenna, there were some splendid moments, as for example when, in acknowledgement of the play within a play,the director gets the actors to freeze or gesture in slow motion. But these occasions were few and far between. The poet became too much involved in the frenetic, comic action and indeed there was, in general, far too much unfunny physical business on stage. One problem with this approach is that it does not prepare the audience for the pathos and genuine emotion which come towards the end of the piece. Another is that it requires much of the singers who already have the daunting task of delivering words and music in Rossini’s effervescent coloratura style. Marco Filippo Romano, as the cuckolded husband, met successfully these demands. Agile vocally, verbally and physically, he offered the single outstanding performance of the evening. The singing of Leonor Bonilla as his wife was in parts very good, and in  other parts not so good. Simone Alberghini was a dull, unromantic Selim. The chorus from Piacenza were admirable, but the playing of the Giovanile Luigi Cherubini Orchestra, under Giovanni Di Stefano, was – like the production – too coarse grained, lacking in nuance and subtlety.