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The Turk in Italy

Gioacchino Rossini’s comedy "The Turk in Italy" enjoys a firmly and warmly conducted production with some wonderfully comic staging at the IU Opera Theatre. The show revolves around a meeting of the romantically mysterious East with the romantically inclined West. The roving eyed Pasha Selim, the strong voiced though stolid Young Ju Lee, in Saturday night’s cast arrives in Italy. The Pasha finds himself well matched with the equally roving eyed Donna Fiorella, sung with steady virtuosity by Kinga Skretkovicz. Complicating the issue is Donna Fiorella’s husband, Don Geronio, sung in a pleasantly confidence inspiring manner by Gregory Brooke. Then there is Donna Florala’s current swain, Don Narcissi, tenor Brian Stucki, and the Pasha’s discarded love Zaida, mezzo-sopranoTiffany Rosenquist.

For the geometrically minded, I count four triangles in "The Turk in Italy." This would seem to be more than enough complication for an evening of Rossini, but there’s also a poet, Prosdocimo, sung by baritone Kory Bickel. Prosdocimo is struggling to complete an opera libretto. In Bickel’s hands, Prosdocimo was always charmingly active as he was inspired by some of the goings on and the manipulative author of a good many of them. Then there’s the chorus, have I mentioned the chorus? Well, they are all gypsies. They’re a nicely matched group dressed as gentlemen and ladies including one very large, very pregnant lady. They are all guys. That’s the way Rossini wrote the music and, without camping it up, that’s the way the IU production plays it.

Guest director Ken Cazan has done a delightful job with his talented company. "The Turk in Italy" isn’t the strongest of Rossini’s comedies, but there’s plenty of energetic goings and comings combined with nicely staged opportunities for some of Rossini’s loveliest arias and creatively delightful duos, trios, quartets and quintets. The wily poet Prosdocimo is always active. The principals all move well. That particular effective and logical chaos of Rossini’s comedy is well served. If you’ve ever wanted, not just wanted but lusted to see, a soprano and a mezzo literally duking it out, then IU’s "The Turk in Italy" has a special treat for you.

Guest conductor Randall Behr kept things moving briskly yet with plenty of space for the singers and an overall feel of confidence. Often in a Rossini opera things are too busy for me to notice particular orchestra moments, but I enjoyed the eloquent horn work by Scott Millichamp and the nicely controlled trumpet playing of Brad Weil in the overture and during the show I was struck by the clarity of one brief oboe solo by Ann Corrigan.

Rossini’s sprightly comedy "The Turk in Italy" at the IU Opera Theatre plays this Friday and Saturday at the Musical Arts Center.

George Walker

After completing an M.A.T. degree in English at Indiana University, George Walker began announcing for WFIU in 1967. Along with regularly hosting classical music shows, he interviews artists and reviews plays and operas.

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