The Italian Girl in Algiers


Approximate Running Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, with 1 intermission

In Italian with English captions

What's Going On?

A story set inside a child’s pop-up book, 1930s

The Italian Girl, Isabella, wants to find her boyfriend, Lindoro, who was captured by pirates and sold as a slave to Mustafà, the Bey of Algiers. Mustafà wants to divorce his wife, Elvira, and add an Italian beauty to his harem. Lindoro just wants to go home and see Isabella again, but the only way that he can earn his freedom is to marry Elvira and take her off Mustafà’s hands. Elvira, of course, doesn’t want to marry Lindoro—she is still in love with Mustafà—but she doesn’t know what to do.

When the pirate Haly captures Isabella, she claims a fellow Italian on the ship, Taddeo, is her uncle to save him—even though Isabella finds Taddeo an annoying and unwanted suitor. Haly conveys the pair to Mustafà’s court, determined to sell the Italian Girl into the Bey’s harem. Lindoro promises to marry Elvira just as Haly announces the arrival of the Italian girl and her “uncle” Taddeo. Once Isabella and Lindoro spot each other, they know that they have to escape.

Beguiled by Isabella’s charms, Mustafà agrees to make Lindoro her personal slave and to appoint her supposed uncle Taddeo a “Grand Kaimakan” with a lavish costume to match his exalted position. Taddeo wants neither the job nor the costume, but he accepts both to avoid Mustafà’s anger.

Meanwhile Isabella chides Elvira for accepting Mustafà’s transgressions and vows to teach the amorous Bey a lesson. Knowing that Mustafà, Taddeo, and Lindoro are spying on them in the harem, Isabella sings of her love for an unnamed man. This love song is meant for Lindoro but Mustafà interprets it as being about himself, just as Isabella intends.

Isabella also offers to bestow on Mustafà the Order of Pappataci. His duties as a member of the Order will consist of making love, eating, drinking, sleeping, and never quarrelling, but he must go through a ceremony of induction. The besotted Mustafà agrees to do anything that Isabella wants. As part of her escape plans, Isabella explains to the Italian servants of the Bey that the “Pappataci” induction ceremony is a ruse and enlists their help.

As the ceremony progresses, Mustafà tries to maintain his new regimen of eating, drinking, and silence, but fails to remain quiet when Isabella openly flirts with the men. During the continuing confusion of the ceremony, and with a little help from the Bey’s willing servants, Isabella and Lindoro escape.

Recognizing that Italian girls are just too clever for him, Mustafà vows to become a better husband to Elvira and wishes Isabella and Lindoro a safe journey home.

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Photo Credit

© Seattle Opera photo