Monday, September 13, 2010

Italiana at Garnier: Ridiculous ≠ Funny

L'italiana in Algeri, Opéra Garnier, September 11 2010

Oncioiu, Novaro, Azzaretti, Corbelli, DiStefano (chorus master), Benini, Genaux, Serban, Brownlee, Vinco

Maurizio Benini ..... Conductor
Andrei Serban ..... Stage director

Marco Vinco ..... Mustafà
Jaël Azzaretti ..... Elvira
Cornelia Oncioiu ..... Zulma
Riccardo Novaro ..... Haly
Lawrence Brownlee ..... Lindoro
Vivica Genaux ..... Isabella
Alessandro Corbelli ..... Taddeo

Orchestre et Choeur de l’Opéra national de Paris

I don't know how to organize this post and not being unpleasant to the production team. This was the first time for me to see this opera on a stage, and after having seen it I'm more than astonished to realize that this is the 4th revival of this production at the Paris Opera. Why? Is there ANYTHING good about this show? If there is, please do enlighten me! Does the artistic management of the Paris Opera have no eyes? Where was their common sense or a minimum amount of sense of humor when they decided to release this dreadful production on DVD?

The only explanation would be that the house invested a boat-load of money to produce this show and to cover the expenses they had to revive it as many times. Even though the show is never the least bit funny, eventually it is ridiculous. Besides, it makes Rossini, this opera, and this theater ridiculous!

I do not want to dissect all the caricatures that cannot work with any reasonably educated audience. I wonder if Mr. Serban ever spent more than a week in Italy, or if he did Internet research about Italy more than one afternoon: Italy is not red-white-green flag with a bottle of Chianti, a plate of pasta or a pizza! Not being able to discern the Algerian from all-out-Turkish is excusable, but extra immersing it in Saudi-Arabian decors is dumb, and offensive: offensive because obviously Serban assumes the audience cannot tell Turkish from Algerian, or Turkish from Saudi-Arabian.  The obsolete cliché about the Italian style is offensive too! Not to mention riding (blue) zebras in the desert, a gorilla waiting for Italians coming to Algiers...  Serban showed up during the curtain calls and didn't get booed for this thrash, which makes me wonder about the crowd populating the opera houses these days... 

The production is maybe not as bad looking as Pasqual's Donna del lago (another Rossini shown at Garnier this year), but it is far worse in its content. OK, if you factor out the anger generated by the appalling quality of staging, you still have Rossini, his music and the rossinian singers. Only Lawrence Brownlee gave a truly excellent performance, and the public knew to appreciate that -- he received loud bravos.
Vivica Genaux was visibly having a bad day at the office. Cruda sorte was not audible enough, and her effervescence seemed to have disappeared. Indeed, right before the beginning of Act 2 the announcer said Vivica was under the weather but nevertheless decided to sing through Act 2...

Here is one video --apparently filmed in one of the previous incarnations of this production at Garnier-- so you can see a glimpse of ridiculous that was meant to be funny.

If you bother to see more of it, I found two more videos of this production on YT: Cruda sorte, Ai capricci.
Alessandro Corbelli and Lawrence Brownlee

Vivica Genaux

Marco Vinco

I should stress that this show was presented in a packed house and even though there were no loud cheers, there were no boos either.

Apart from Brownlee the only positive thing I could take from this evening was the stunning beauty of the Palais Garnier.

Ceiling of the Garnier Palace painted by Marc Chagal


  1. I rather enjoy this opera - having first experienced it with Marilyn Horn in a Ponnelle production.

  2. I'm not questioning the quality of this opera. It's this particular production that makes me feel sick. As for Horne as Isabella - all I can say is, lucky you! :)