L'italiana in Algeri
A room communicating between the Bey’s apartments and those of his wife.
In the palace of Mustafà, Bey of Algiers, the eunuchs of his seraglio and the slave Zulma try to console Elvira, the Bey’s wife, who complains that her husband no longer loves her (Introduction: «Serenate il mesto ciglio»). Mustafà makes his majestic entry, and displays his contempt for the female sex. He rudely silences Elvira and dismisses everybody except Haly, the captain of his Algerian corsairs. He orders the pirate to summon his favourite Italian slave, having decided to join him in marriage – in defiance of the law of Mahomet – to his own wife Elvira of whom he has grown tired. He also peremptorily orders the captain to procure for him, within six days, an Italian girl. Meanwhile Lindoro, Mustafà’s Italian slave, sighs at the thought of his beloved who is so far away and of whom he has heard nothing for three months. His only consolation is his certainty that she is still faithful to him (Cavatina: «Languir per una bella»). Mustafà communicates his decision to Lindoro, who tries to protest. But the Bey declares that love is of no importance and asks him what he believes to be the ideal requisites of a wife. Lindoro lists them. Mustafà assures him that they perfectly match the qualities of Elvira (Duet: «Se inclinassi a prender moglie»).
A sea shore.
On the beach, from which a shipwreck can be descried, lands the Algerian corsairs’ vessel. The pirates are pleased with their excellent booty (Chorus: «Quanta roba! Quanti schiavi!»). Off the boat steps the Italian Isabella, who has been taken prisoner and whose beauty is acclaimed by all. The Italian girl bemoans her sad fate and her lost lover Lindoro, in search of whom she had set out from distant Italy. But her desperation soon turns to determination. Isabella summons up her courage and vows to combat her fate by resorting to the female arts, whose effects she knows well (Cavatina: «Cruda sorte! Amor tiranno!»). Cries for help are heard from Taddeo, who has been Isabella’s travelling companion and ardent admirer. The pirates now want him as a slave, however Isabella saves him by declaring that she is his nephew. Meanwhile Haly rejoices in the thought of Mustafà’s order, and announces to Isabella that she is to have the honour of embellishing the Bey’s harem. Isabella heartens the frightened Taddeo and confesses that she had originally set out on this voyage to find Lindoro, whom she loved before him. The revelation sends him into a fit of jealousy, which in turn irritates Isabella. The two bicker for a while but then decide, in the face of present dangers, to put aside their discord (Duet: «Ai capricci della sorte»).
A room, as in scene one.
Zulma tries in vain to convince Elvira and Lindoro to agree to the marriage planned by Mustafà. The Bey urges them to depart on a Venetian vessel which is about to sail for Italy, then takes his leave of Elvira abruptly. Having heard from Haly that a beautiful Italian girl has been captured, Mustafà is impatient to meet her and gives orders for her to be worthily received (Aria: «Già d’insolito ardore nel petto»). Elvira is desperate, but Lindoro consoles her. In Italy, he says, a beautiful and rich young woman like her can have as many husbands and lovers as she likes.
A magnificent hall.
The eunuchs of the harem praise Mustafà, scourger of the gentle sex (First finale: «Viva, viva il flagel delle donne»). The Bey is eagerly waiting to see the lovely Italian girl, and when she appears, he is conquered at once. Isabella understands that she can easily win the match and therefore feigns despair, begging Mustafà to help her in her distress. Taddeo now enters to reclaim his niece; Mustafà gives orders that the man be impaled, but then releases him in order to win Isabella’s favour. Elvira, Zulma and Lindoro present themselves to say farewell to the Bey (Tempo d’attacco: «Pria di dividerci da voi, signore»). Lindoro and Isabella recognise one another and stop in amazement. No one else understands the reason for their astonishment (Static concertato: «Confusi e stupidi»). Isabella, who has heard which way the wind is blowing, demands that Elvira remain with her legitimate husband and that the Italian slave be placed in her service. Mustafà attempts to oppose this order, but Isabella has no hesitation in sending him to the devil (Tempo di mezzo: «Dite: chi è quella femmina?»). A scene so incredible leaves everybody dumbstruck (Stretta: «Va sossopra il mio/suo cervello»).
A room as in Act I.
The astounded eunuchs, Elvira, Zulma and Haly comment on the recent turn of events: Mustafà has had the wool pulled over his eyes by the beautiful Italian girl (Introduction: «Uno stupido, uno stolto»). The Bey, puffed up and cocksure of his knowledge of how to handle women, issues an order to warn Isabella that he will be taking coffee with her. Meanwhile Isabella feels sad, because she believes Lindoro is unfaithful to her. But the Italian manages to reach her and explains what has happened. Together they plot to spring some sort of hoax on Mustafà and then to escape. Lindoro abandons himself to the joy of having found his beloved again (Cavatina: «Oh come il cor di giubilo»). Mustafà impatiently makes ready to meet Isabella, and to give her proof of his love he appoints Taddeo his Kaimakan, or lieutenant. Loudly acclaimed by all (Chorus: «Viva il grande Kaimakan»), he goes on to fit out the man with Turkish clothes, turban and sabre. Taddeo is reluctantly compelled to accept his new role (Aria: «Ho un gran peso sulla testa»).
Magnificent apartment with a delectable loggia overlooking the sea.
Isabella makes herself ready in front of the mirror, putting on her Turkish apparel. She reproaches Elvira for being so submissive and urges her to use feminine cunning. She promises to show her what sort of treatment a husband like hers deserves. Continuing her preparations, she prays to Venus to make her more beautiful in the eyes of her beloved Lindoro (Cavatina: «Per lui che adoro»). Noting the look on Mustafà’s face as he gazes in admiration from the threshold, Isabella chuckles over her easy victory. When she has gone out, Mustafà arranges with Taddeo that he is to leave the room as soon as he receives the signal of a sneeze.When Isabella reenters, the Bey introduces her to the Kaimakan and, without further ado, sneezes. But Taddeo feigns deafness and ignores both the agreed signal and Mustafà’s mounting irritation (Quintet: «Ti presento di mia man»).
A room, as in scene one of Act II.
Haly, who has noticed the ability of Italian women, comments with pleasure on the events (Aria: «Le femmine d’Italia»). Taddeo in the meantime reveals to Lindoro that he is Isabella’s lover and not her uncle. But the young man does not believe him and makes fun of him.Mustafà enters, in a fury. Lindoro calms him by telling him that Isabella, in token of her affection, intends to name him Pappataci: a title reserved, in Italy, to indefatigable lovers, whose only duty is to eat, drink and sleep (Trio: «Pappataci! Che mai sento!»). Zulma talks in the meantime with Haly and reassures him of Isabella’s intentions, telling him that she wishes to organize a mock ceremony in Mustafà’s honour. A magnificent apartment. Lindoro informs Taddeo that Isabella has persuaded the whole Italian community to attend Mustafà’s investiture.
The Italians declare themselves ready to face any danger (Chorus: «Pronti abbiamo e ferri e mani»); Isabella stirs Lindoro into action and exhorts him to think of their homeland which he will see again before long (Rondò: «Pensa alla patria, e intrepido»). Lindoro presents to Mustafà the Italians, who are dressed in their ceremonial robes as Pappataci (Second finale: «Dei Pappataci s’avanza il coro»).The Bey himself, clad in similar apparel, is invited to take the oath, repeating word for word what Taddeo reads out to him. While this investiture is in progress, Isabella and Lindoro exchange secret effusions. Mustafà notices, but as a Pappataci – Taddeo reminds him – he is obliged to pretend to be deaf and dumb. A ship appears, manned by European sailors and slaves, who rally the Italians. Isabella and Lindoro go off with the others. Taddeo at last understands Lindoro’s identity and wishes he could get Mustafà to intervene. But this time it is the Bey who tells him to remain deaf and dumb, remembering the oath of the Pappataci.When at last Mustafà realizes he has been hoodwinked, he summons his men, but they are all drunk. So he resigns himself to Elvira’s love and declares that he wants nothing more to do with Italian women.
Synopsis by Claudio Toscani, translation by Rodney Stringer