tue 16/08/2022

Il Turco in Italia, Garsington Opera | reviews, news & interviews

Il Turco in Italia, Garsington Opera

Il Turco in Italia, Garsington Opera

UK Gold in a field, anyone?

What would opera do without the postwar British sitcom? Garsington Opera's new production of Rossini's Il Turco in Italia at Wormsley last night saw yet another opera buffa being sold to 21st-century man using the gestural language of 'Allo 'Allo and Fawlty Towers. It was as easy and enjoyable as a night in with UK Gold - but much nicer, for we were surrounded by fields and forests.

Chief comic attention-seeker was the brilliantly pitiable comb-overed cuckold Don Geronio (Geoffrey Dalton). You could trace the whole history of physical comedy in his anxious twists and turns, from Laurel and Hardy to Kenneth Williams. In his world-weary fury and uxorial fear, there was a good dose of Basil Fawlty too. It was perhaps unsurprising then, once we'd gauged the quality of wife Fiorilla (Rebecca Nelson), which didn't take long, that the highlights of the evening would be the domestic scenes between the warring couple.

Nelson's voice, seeming almost to be at one with her springing knees and swinging hips, was a thoroughly sexy display. Her infidelity with a tourist Turk, Quirijn de Lang's Prince Selim (the prow of whose colourful ship literally sails into their Italian town), and Don Narcisso (David Alegret) is the motor for the temporarily foolish (but ultimately enlightening) carry on that will take in fake gypsies, Turkish sailors and lots of fancy dress. Director Martin Duncan and movement assistant Nick Winston, while delivering much of the mayhem with great clarity, ran out of ideas by Act II and found themselves raiding the CBBC cupboard of theatrical tricks.
The music keeps pace. This is young Rossini. Ideas are plentiful, rich and Mozartian. There are duets, trios and quartets. Woodwinds usher in attractive amorous undercurrents. There was a thrilling gustiness filling the sails of Nelson's bel canto style. Conductor David Parry and the Garsington Opera orchestra offered a lovely broad swell in Act II. Victoria Simmonds's Zaida and Nicholas Sharratt's Albazar, a warming presence both of them, were always welcome - as was the touch of modernity offered by the framing Poet, Mark Stone, who we see perched up a flight of stairs, a happy magpie hovering over the dramatic gold below.

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I was at this performance last night with my husband and we found it extremely enjoyable! We were blown away by the creativity of the production (I don't want to spoil the surprise, so I won't mention my favorite thing about the scenery), the staging was excellent and there was never a dull moment! I am a regular patron of the arts, and I haven't laughed so much in an opera in ages and ages - it was delightful! The vocal quality and acting ability displayed by the principals (specifically by the three leads: Nelson, De Lang and Dalton) were simply superb. Highlights for us were the duet between the two men in the second half (hilarious) and Ms. Nelson's final aria (Wow!). What a quality production!

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