L'italiana in Algeri

L'italiana in Algeri (Italian pronunciation: [litaˈljaːna in alˈdʒɛːri]; English: The Italian Girl in Algiers) is an operatic dramma giocoso in two acts by Gioachino Rossini to an Italian libretto by Angelo Anelli, based on his earlier text set by Luigi Mosca. It premiered at the Teatro San Benedetto in Venice on 22 May 1813. The music is characteristic of Rossini's style, remarkable for its fusion of sustained, manic energy with elegant, pristine melodies.

Composition history

Rossini wrote L'italiana in Algeri when he was 21. The opera was composed in either 18 or 27 days, depending on which source one believes (Rossini, not surprisingly, pegged it at 18). Rossini entrusted the composition of the recitatives as well as the aria "Le femmine d'Italia" to an unknown collaborator.[1] The opera is notable for Rossini's mixing of opera seria style with opera buffa. The overture is widely recorded and performed today, known for its distinct opening of slow, quiet pizzicato basses, leading to a sudden loud burst of sound from the full orchestra. This "surprise" reflects Rossini's early admiration for Joseph Haydn, whose Symphony No. 94 in G major, "The Surprise Symphony", is so named for the same shocking and semi-comic effect.

Performance history

The work was first performed at the Teatro San Benedetto, Venice on 22 May 1813. It was a notable success and Rossini made progressive changes to the work for later performances in Vicenza, Milan and Naples, during the following two years.

The opera was first presented in London at His Majesty's Theatre on 28 January 1819 and on 5 November 1832 in New York. Having fallen somewhat out of favour as the 19th Century progressed, notable performances of the opera were presented from the 1920s in "Turin (1825), Rome (1927) and London (1935)" [2] and it has been revived frequently after World War II with many successful productions. It is performed regularly in the 21st Century with 48 productions being presented in 43 cities since January 2009. [3] One notable production was given at The Santa Fe Opera in 2002 with Stephanie Blythe as Isabella. [4]


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 22 May 1813
(Conductor: likely Alessandro Rolla)
Isabella, the Italian girl contralto Marietta Marcolini
Lindoro, in love with Isabella tenor Serafino Gentili
Taddeo, an elderly Italian bass Paolo Rosich
Mustafà, the Bey of Algiers bass Filippo Galli
Elvira, his wife soprano Luttgard Annibaldi
Zulma, her confidante mezzo-soprano Annunziata Berni Chelli
Haly, the captain of the Bey's guard tenor or bass[5] Giuseppe Spirito
Harem women (silent); Eunuchs, pirates, slaves, sailors – Male chorus


Place: Algiers
Time: The past[6]

Act 1

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, 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).

The seashore

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.

The palace

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).

Act 2

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.

Isabella's apartment

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!


Year Cast
(Isabella, Lindoro,
Mustafa, Taddeo)
Opera House and Orchestra
1954 Giulietta Simionato,
Cesare Valletti,
Mario Petri,
Marcello Cortis
Carlo Maria Giulini
La Scala orchestra and chorus
Audio CD: EMI
Cat: CHS 7 64041-2
1963 Teresa Berganza,
Luigi Alva,
Fernando Corena,
Rolando Panerai
Silvio Varviso,
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Audio CD: Decca
Cat: 475 8285
1978 Lucia Valentini Terrani,
Ugo Benelli,
Sesto Bruscantini,
Enzo Dara
Gary Bertini,
Dresden Staatskapelle
Audio CD: Arts Music
Cat: 43048-2
1979 Lucia Valentini Terrani,
Francisco Araiza,
Wladimiro Ganzarolli,
Enzo Dara
Gabriele Ferro,
Cappella Coloniensis
Audio CD: CBS
Cat: M3T 39048
1980 Marilyn Horne,
Ernesto Palacio,
Samuel Ramey,
Domenico Trimarchi
Claudio Scimone,
I Solisti Veneti
Audio CD: Erato
Cat: 2292-45404-2
1987 Agnes Baltsa,
Frank Lopardo,
Ruggero Raimondi,
Enzo Dara
Claudio Abbado,
Vienna Philharmonic
Audio CD: Deutsche Grammophon
Cat: 427 331-2
1998 Jennifer Larmore,
Raúl Giménez,
John Del Carlo
Alessandro Corbelli
Jesús López-Cobos,
Lausanne Chamber Orchestra
Audio CD: Erato
Cat: 0630 17130-2
2006 Marianna Pizzolato,
Marco Vinco,
Maxim Mironov
Bruno De Simone
Donato Renzetti,
Orchestra Teatro Comunale di Bologna
Video DVD: Dynamic
Cat: 33526
2008 Marianna Pizzolato,
Lorenzo Regazzo,
Lawrence Brownlee
Bruno De Simone
Giulio Mastrototaro,
Alberto Zedda,
Virtuosi Brunensis Orchestra and the Philharmonischer Chor Transilvania Cluj
(Recording of a performance at the Wildbad Festival, 5 July)
Audio CD: Naxos
Cat: 8.660284-85



  1. Corghi, Azio. Preface to the complete Ricordi Edition. Fondazione Rossini Pesaro, 1981. ISBN 88-7592-818-5.
  2. Osborne, Charles 1994, p. 35
  3. Operabase.com listing of performances from 1 January 2011 going forward to 2015
  4. Santa Fe Opera's database. Since then, this production has been presented in at least 15 different North American locations
  5. The role of Haly is stated by Beghelli and Gallino to be a tenor part (p. 203), whereas almost all the other sources assign it to the bass voice type (and baritones are normally allotted it in actual theatre performances and in recordings). There are still further sporadic examples of assignment to the tenor voice type, such as nineteenth century editions of the libretto (see: Milan, Ricordi, sd., accessible online at the Archivio di Stato in Reggio Emilia, where the role is stated to be for «secondo tenore») or the website of the Deutsche Rossini Gesellschaft. Moreover, it should be noted that Giuseppe Spirito, the first performer of Haly, had already created the role of Frontino in L'equivoco stravagante, which is usually considered to be an unquestioned tenor part.
  6. Osborne, Charles 1994, p. 34
  7. Recordings of L'italiana in Algeri on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk


External links

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