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O'Reilly Theatre, National Opera House

La cucina/Adina stars Jette Parker Young Artist Rachel Kelly as Adina and 2017 Operalia winner Levy Sekgapane as Selimo, alongside Máire Flavin, Manuel Amati, Sheldon Baxter, Emmanuel Franco, Daniele Antonangeli and Luca Nucera.

A co-production with the Rossini Opera Festival.

Few of Gioachino Rossini’s (1792-1868) operas are less well known than Adina. Intriguingly, it’s not an early work but one composed in the aftermath of Rossini’s great creative flourish of 1816–17, which produced masterpieces including Il barbiere di Siviglia and La Cenerentola, so the composer certainly knew what he was doing when he produced Adina with glittering arias and rich orchestral textures. Among the many mysteries surrounding Adina are why it was commissioned in 1818 for a Portuguese patron yet not performed until 1826 at Lisbon’s Teatro São Carlos. Rossini never heard the work himself, and after a performance in 1828 in Rio de Janeiro, it disappeared from view until the 1960s. It was revived in Siena in 1963, and in Oxford in 1968. Rossini’s writing for the title role – and only female protagonist in the piece – is in some ways restrained, perhaps because he designed the part for a singer active in Lisbon he didn’t actually know. Though subtitled Il califfo di Bagdad, and adapted from Felice Romani’s Il califfo e la schiava, the score makes little attempt at Middle-Eastern local colour; indeed, four out of its ten numbers were culled by the composer from his own 1814 opera Sigismondo, which is set in 16th century Poland. The plot is a variation on the then-popular escape-from-the-harem theme, though the heroine on this occasion feels more than usual sympathy for her captor. All is explained – in good time, fortunately – when it transpires that the beautiful slave girl Adina is indeed the caliph’s daughter.

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