Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Something Familiar in Rossini's 'Italian Girl'

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Something Familiar in Rossini's 'Italian Girl'

Article excerpt

SARASOTA OPERA

If it weren't for the popularity of Gioachino Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" and "La Cenerentola," Sarasota Opera might have produced his "The Italian Girl in Algiers" years ago.

"They are so famous that they have tended to overshadow everything else he has done," said Anthony Barrese, who will conduct the Sarasota Opera's first production of "The Italian Girl," which opens Saturday.

The opera, which had its premiere in Venice in 1813, was always "very popular," Barrese said, but "Barber" grew to become one of the most popular operas in the world, one of the handful that "will sell out no matter what," and opera companies tend to keep returning to those hits to keep audiences happy.

"Everything else is a crapshoot," Barrese said.

Even though it may be new to Sarasota Opera audiences, there is a lot in "The Italian Girl" that will seem familiar to those experiencing it for the first time, he said.

"People want to hear music that reminds them of something that they know. If you know 'Barber' well, you'll recognize musical and situational ideas here," Barrese said.

Stage director Mark Freiman, who has sung with Sarasota Opera in years past, said "The Italian Girl" also is "a great first opera for people who have never been to the opera. It's very accessible, the characters are relatable, the music is fun and ..."

"And it's funny," Barrese interrupts. "It's very funny, dramatically funny and musically funny."

Tara Venditti, who has sung in opera houses around the world, including La Scala, stars as Isabella, a woman who makes the best out of any situation. Her beloved Lindoro has been captured by Mustafa, the Bey of Algiers (a local governor), when he shipwrecks off the coast. Isabella heads out looking for Lindoro, thinking he has been lost at sea, when she shipwrecks at the same point in Algeria.

"She's a stranger in a strange land," the effervescent singer said. "She's coming into a different society and different hierarchies and gender positions, but she doesn't care. She throws caution to the wind. I'm a woman who always wins with men and I'm going to stop being afraid and just watch me whip them into shape. …

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