Opera Profile: Rossini’s Raucous ‘L’Italiana in Algeri’

By David Salazar

Of Rossini’s many comedies, “L’Italiana in Algeri” is among his most renowned.

The work, which had its world premiere on May 22, 1813, was written by Angelo Anelli and was composed in less than a month. It has remained a fixture in the repertory since its world premiere, noted as a major vehicle for mezzo-sopranos such as Marilyn Horne, Teresa Berganza, and Agnes Balsta, among others.

Short Plot Summary

Elvira is upset that her husband, the Turkish Bey Mustafa, no longer loves her. Mustafa reveals that he wants to marry his wife off to his Italian slave Lindoro because he wants an Italian woman instead.

Lindoro sings of his love for Isabella, though he finds out that he is set to marry Elvira.

A ship arrives at Algiers after being wrecked by a storm. It is Isabella looking for Lindoro. She is accompanied by Taddeo, who is in love with her. Haly, the right-hand man for Mustafa takes the two prisoners.

Mustafa offers Lindoro passage to Italy if he promises to marry Elvira. He agrees. Just then, Isabella arrives, though she finds Mustafa’s appearances amusing. Lindoro runs into her as he is about to depart with his supposed new wife, creating confusion.

Left alone, Lindoro and Isabella clear everything up and agree to escape together. Mustafa enters, ready to seduce Isabella, but it all winds up a mess for him. Eventually, Mustafa is convinced to become a “pappataci” in an official ceremony. He must swear an oath of eating, drinking, and keeping silent. He is then tested on his oath. A European ship arrives and they all escape.

The Bey realizes that he has been tricked, but it is too late. He apologizes to his wife and everyone gets a happy ending.

Watch and Listen

Check out this production from 1996.


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