Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Opera Australia: The Turk in Italy

Samuel Dundas as Prosdocimo & The Opera Australia ChorusPhoto credit Lisa Tomasetti. Courtesy Opera Australia.
If you view Opera as a stuffy, traditionalist form of entertainment where overly made up men and women swan around on stage and sing with bravado prepare to have some of your (dated and generalised) illusions shattered. The Turk in Italy, written by Gioachino Rossini and presented by Opera Australia is hilarious - there's one illusion down the drain. While I don't believe that what appeared on the surtitles was a direct translation, you got the general idea, and with things such as 'What the f**k' appearing it was evident content has been updated for a contemporary audience.

Conal Coad as Geronio, Samuel Dundas as Prosdocimo & Luciano Botelho as Narciso.
Photo credit Lisa Tomasetti. Courtesy Opera Australia.

The Turk in Italy is set in a seaside town near Naples in the 1950's where a young poet, Prosdocimo is desperately in search of inspiration for a new story. He finds it in the love life of married couple Geronio and Fiorilla and the gypsy Zaida. Geronio is at his wits end as his wife flirts and has her way with every young man who crosses her path. Zaida is heartbroken at the loss of her love Selim who believed her to be untrue and she was forced to flee Turkey. Things become interesting when Selim arrives in Naples and meets the vivacious Fiorilla and immediately falls for her, much to Geronio's dismay. But when Selim reunites with Zaida things get complicated and he is torn. The women fight over him while poor Geronio attempts to defend his honour and pride. It all culminates in a fancy dress ball with delightful, if not predictable results, and the poet Prosdocimo has his story.

Paolo Bordogna as Selim & Anna Dowsley as Zaida.
Photo credit Lisa Tomasetti. Courtesy Opera Australia.
The costumes and set design are exceptional. I secretly coveted every outfit worn by the brilliant Emma Matthews as Fiorilla. The seaside bar seamlessly converted into the inside of Geronio's house and then into the ball at the opera's conclusion. It's simplicity was its strength. Paolo Bordogna as Selim was a standout as much for his cheeky theatrical performance as the suave Turk as for his outstanding singing ability. Perhaps that was the most surprising part - the cast could act. Was it overdone - yes - but not to the point where it felt ridiculous. Arguably this may have been easier to achieve given it was a comedic performance but that could have also been the danger. The Turk in Italy is immensely entertaining and engaging. The humour, the costumes, the sets, not to mention the remarkable vocal and theatrical performances left the audience gasping for more.  
Emma Matthews as Fiorilla, Paolo Bordogna as Selim & Samuel Dundas as Prosdocimo. Photo credit Lisa Tomasett. Courtesy Opera Australia.

Paolo Bordogna as Selim, Emma Matthews as Fiorilla & Conal Coad as Geronio.
Photo credit Lisa Tomasetti. Courtesy Opera Australia.

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