There are many stories on offer for the poet Prosdocimo, who is searching for a subject for a comedy he wants to write. Firstly, the gypsy Zaida offers him her story: she used to be a member of the Turkish Prince Selim’s harem, but when she and her master fell in love it became dangerous for them, so she fled to Naples, and lives as a gypsy. With an unknown Turkish Prince arriving in Naples imminently he might be able to tell them something of Selim, which could provide some interesting material for Prosdocimo’s comedy. Secondly, he could write about the forlorn Don Geronio, who looks to the gypsies for guidance in his marital problems. His wife, Donna Fiorilla, is far more interested in freedom and new romances than she is in being a faithful wife, as her secret affair with Narciso will attest.
Prosdocimo actually does not have to choose, as the arrival of the Turkish Prince entwines both stories. It turns out that the Prince is, in fact, Selim, and Zaida’s love for him is immediately reignited on seeing him. Donna Fiorilla also finds herself instantly attracted to this mysterious stranger. Will Selim reunite with Zaida, or will he accept Fiorilla’s offer to divorce her husband for him? Will Geronio let his wife leave him for this stranger? What will happen to her lover, Narciso? Prosdocimo follows the lovers through their farcical meetings, cases of mistaken identity, threats of divorce, and a complex plot to elope during a masked ball, to find out the answers and complete his writing.
Although careful handling of the racial representations is required in productions of this opera, which is very much a product of its time, nevertheless Il turco in Italia still offers an audience a fun farce, which considers many important questions about marriage and romance. All of this is set against another of Rossini’s excellent scores, promising a fun and frothy experience for all.
Il turco in Italia guide sections