The Italian Girl in London
The Italian Girl in London
(L’italiana in Londra, 1778)
Intermezzo in two parts
Libretto by Giuseppe Petrosellini
English translation by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray
The Deanery garden, Bampton 15, 15 July 2011
The Opera House, Buxton 18, 23 July 2011
The Orangery, Westonbirt 28 August 2011
St John’s, Smith Square 13 September 2011
|Livia, an Italian girl, pretending to be a French maid||Kim Sheehan|
|Madama Brillante, a hotel proprietress||Caryl Hughes|
|Sumers, a Dutch travelling salesman||Adam Tunnicliffe|
|Don Polidoro, an Italian tourist||Nicholas Merryweather|
|Milord Arespingh, an Englishman and minor aristocrat||Robert Winslade Anderson|
|A hotel maid||Rosa French|
|A policeman||Martin Havelock|
|Associate Director||Nicola Samer|
|Set designer||Nigel Hook|
|Costume designer||Fiona Hodges|
Whilst war rages in the world at large, three men of different nationalities find themselves as guests at Madama Brillante’s downmarket London hotel. The salesman Sumers, who is Dutch and terribly sensible, and Don Polidoro from Naples (but who has a poor sense of geography) can’t understand English manners and tastes. At teatime they are diverted by the morose appearance of the English Milord, Arespingh: he faces the awful prospect of marrying Diana, a bride chosen by his father, rather than his beloved Livia whom he has been forced to leave behind in Genoa.
All the men are intrigued by Madama’s French waitress, ‘Henriette’, from Marseilles. Milord cannot get over the uncanny resemblance ‘Henriette’ bears to his Italian love, Livia. She in turn is horrified to realise that the man who jilted her has appeared in the very place where she works.
Madama is desperate to be married herself, and at first misinterprets the comments of the men who are all attracted to ‘Henriette’. Livia explains her plight to Madama, who responds with worldly wisdom based on her own sad experience.
Madama has taken a fancy to Polidoro but is also determined to embarrass him over his infatuation with Livia. She explains that the girl can make herself invisible by a magic heliotrope or bloodstone which she possesses, and teases him into thinking that ‘Henriette’ is actually present.
Sumers reads in the paper about Milord’s forthcoming marriage to Diana and feels that he must protect ‘Henriette’ from untoward advances. Milord protests that he has no intention of going through with his father’s plan.
Polidoro hunts for his own bloodstone in order to further his amorous intentions with the girl. Milord is suicidal, and wants Polidoro to run him through with a sword. Livia is also desperate and would like to end her life. Madama finds Polidoro with the sword and imagines he is both mad and dangerous, and soon everyone rounds on him to his utter bewilderment. However Livia accuses Milord of infidelity and, as a storm breaks, he in turn becomes the focus of everyone’s anger.
Milord hangs around at the hotel which he cannot bear to leave, despite Madama making it clear that he is no longer welcome. Nevertheless she begins to wonder if he is genuinely still in love with Livia. Milord insults Polidoro, who threatens revenge, much to Madama’s concern who fears he will come off worse in a fight.
Madama teases Polidoro, explaining that ‘Henriette’ must love him despite her protests to the contrary: women always say the opposite to what they mean.
Livia overhears Milord assuring Sumers that he remains true to her. Although Sumers disbelieves him, she begins to understand the truth. Sumers adopts the moral high ground against the foreign men.
Polidoro at last finds a bloodstone and so assumes he is invisible. He eavesdrops on a conversation between the women who of course know that he is present.
There is an uneasy meeting between the lovers, which is abruptly interrupted when a police arrives to arrest Livia. Milord is alarmed and furious, but the others assume he has engineered the arrest.
With extraordinary speed and generosity, Sumers arranges bail for the girl’s release. Madama reveals her love for Polidoro and her desire to return with him to Naples: he is not quite convinced, as ‘Henriette’ still appears to be available.
Livia writes a thank-you letter to Sumers but is observed by Milord, arousing his jealousy. In a touch-and-go confrontation, Milord explains that Livia’s father was behind the arrest in order to punish her for running away from home. Despite many threats and counter-threats, the lovers are at last reconciled and Madama is deliriously happy to see them together.
Sumers and Polidoro still plan revenge against Milord, but Madama convinces them that all is well. A final trick is played against Polidoro with his bloodstone, but he is eventually persuaded that he may as well accept Madama. It is announced that the war is over, and everyone celebrates peace amongst the nations.
stylish and amusing
The Daily Telegraph, 15 September 2011
beautifully paced and elegant… impressive cast
Opera Now, October 2011
a barmy yet sentimental comic romp of the kind in which Bampton Classical Opera excels
Opera, September 2011
...delightfully funny... strongly sung... spirited style
The Oxford Times, 22 July 2011