El Teatro Muncipal has hit a home run with the last opera of the 2009 season, Gioachino Rossini’s celebrated comedy “La Italiana.” The production, which debuted on the 24th of October, is refreshingly funny, intelligent and boasts a cast of exceptionally talented performers from all over the globe.
Photo courtesy Juan Millán T.
“La Italiana” tells the story of Isabella, a beautiful Italian woman who sets sail from her homeland in search of her long lost love, Lindero. As fate would have it, Isabella’s ship runs aground in the realm of the Turkish Bey Mustafa, who is seeking to replace his wife Elvira with an exotic Italian woman. When Mustafa sees Isabella, he falls madly in love with her and decrees that Eliva be given in marriage to his favorite slave, the long absent Lindero. In order to avert this disaster, Isabella uses her charm and her cunning to outwit the smitten Bey, so that she and her beloved can escape back to Italy.
In his interpretation of Rossini’s great classic, director Emilio Sag transports the audience to a world reminiscent of middle school, in which no one can muster up the courage to communicate their feelings to members of the opposite sex. In this world, Isabella is that savvy girl who got her training bra long before anyone else did, and seems to be able to control a swarm of boys with a mere flick of her ponytail.
From the moment Marianna Pizzolata first sets foot upon the stage as Isabella, she assumes the role of the sun, around which, the rest of the performance orbits. If she enters the stage wearing red, then suddenly the lighting, scenery and cast are adorned in a vibrant vivacious red, like chameleons that change color in order to blend in with her dominant presence.
Of course, all the sex appeal and stage presence in the world would mean nothing if Pizzolato couldn’t sing. Fortunately for the audience, the native Italian is one of the most talented vocalists to grace El Teatro Municipal this season. Her voice has an effervescent quality that captures perfectly the playful spirit of the production and makes an extremely vocally challenging opera seem effortless.
If Isabella is the queen bee of the production, then Bey Mustafa, played by Pietro Spagnoli, is the quintessential adolescent boy. While nearly all the characters in La Italiana are suffering from some sort of verbal or emotional block, Mustafa seems to have it the worst. He spends the entirety of the opera pouting, fainting, or spouting impetuous commands at his sometimes trembling, sometimes mocking subjects. When he is not busy in amorous pursuit of Isabella, he is cross-legged on the floor of his chambers playing with toy trains.
Enrique Borolini does a wonderful job accenting the hilarity of the production with an exceptionally well-designed set, in which props take the place of words as a medium for the expression of emotions. Balloons are battered and pillows are disemboweled in a series of wonderfully choreographed scenes that show the inner tumult of the characters, while still maintaining a lighthearted and humorous tone.
If you are in need of a good laugh or a solid dose of girl power, then “La Italiana” should be number one on your list of weekend activities.