The Italian Girl in Algiers

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September 2023 Next


Act 1

In Mustafà Bey's palace in Algiers, the potentate's sad wife, Elvira, is complaining to her confidante, Zulma, that her husband no longer loves her. The eunuch servants sadly state that, in the bey's household, women live only to suffer. Mustafà appears, accompanied by the corsair captain, Ali. Elvira pleads for her husband's pity, but Mustafà turns away in disgust and anger. He orders everyone out of the room, except for Ali, whom he commands to show him his Italian slave, Lindoro, as Mustafà has resolved to give the bored Elvira to the Italian. Having himself grown fed up with the tender fawning of the harem ladies, Mustafà is yearning for a temperamental Italian woman. He informs Ali that if he does not obtain him a woman like that within six days, then he will have him impaled.
Lindoro is pining for his far-away love. Mustafà informs him that he's going to marry him off. Lindoro struggles to come up with excuses for why he cannot accept the marriage proposal, but Mustafà eagerly pushes his wife on his new slave.
A new corsair ship sails into the harbour. Among the newly arrived Italian slaves is an extraordinary woman named Isabella, who went to sea in order to seek her true love, Lindoro, but then was taken captive herself. However, she has not fallen into despair, as she is well aware that her feminine charm and guile are enough to defeat any man. The corsairs also drag out another captive: Taddeo, whose unrequited love for Isabella is the reason for his current predicament. They lie to Ali that they are uncle and niece, there directly from the Italian city of Livorno. Ali happily exclaims that Isabella will be the glory of Mustafà's harem! Taddeo is crestfallen: now it's not just Lindoro he has to worry about; because of him, now he has to contend with Mustafà too. Irritated, Isabella puts a stop to her companion's attack of jealousy.
Lindoro and Elvira face each other hesitantly: neither of them is eager to marry the other. Mustafà bursts in on them to announce that he is allowing a Venetian ship to go free – and Lindoro may journey home on it with his new wife. Desperately, Elvira pleads with her husband not to make her go away, but Mustafà cuts her off impatiently. Ali enters in order to report the arrival of the Italian woman. Mustafà is immediately overcome by excitement: he is impatiently waiting for his wife to depart so that he can win over the Italian woman.

Isabella is solemnly led before Mustafà, who is completely smitten with the woman. Isabella immediately sees what kind of man she is dealing with and how she can use him to achieve her aim. Taddeo bursts into the room, pursued by Ali. Mustafà is ready to have the troublemaker impaled, but Isabella tells him that Taddeo is her uncle, leading to an instant show of mercy. Elvira, Zulma and Lindoro come before Mustafà to plead with the bey one more time before their journey. Isabella and Lindoro are astonished to recognise each other. Upon learning that the bey plans to give his own wife to Lindoro, the Italian woman loudly exclaims that the woman must stay. She also declares that Lindoro will be her own slave. Mustafà won't have any of this, but eventually he is incapable of saying “no” to the demanding Isabella.

Act 2

The eunuchs conclude that the Italian woman has made a fool out of Mustafà. The bey sends Elvira and Zulma to tell Isabella that he wishes to have coffee alone with her in half an hour. Elvira warns her husband that it will be no simple matter to seduce the clever woman. Mustafà, however, has already planned out how to achieve his aim: he will attempt to soften the heart of his adored Isabella through her uncle.
Left alone with Lindoro, Isabella angrily castigates him for abandoning her. It is only with great difficulty that he manages to convince her that he hasn't got the slightest intention of marrying Mustafà's wife and that he has never betrayed his love for Isabella. The beautiful woman eventually relents and, together with her beloved, starts planning their escape.

Taddeo rushes before Mustafà and pleads to be rescued from the fellow who is chasing him with a stake. Mustafà assures Taddeo that he has no wish for him to come to any harm – on the contrary: he appoints him his deputy, the kaimakam. In exchange for awarding him his new position, the bey asks Taddeo to intercede with his “niece” on Mustafà's behalf. The reluctant Taddeo is forced to consent.
While primping herself to prepare for her reception with Mustafà, Isabella tells Elvira point-blank that she has only herself to blame for the fact that the bey has tired of her. She does, however, offer to teach her how men have to be handled. Mustafà sends for Isabella, telling Taddeo that if he sneezes, that is the signal for him to leave him alone with Taddeo's “niece”. The Italian woman appears before Mustafà, who proudly reports that he has appointed her “uncle” to the post of kaimakam. The bey sneezes to signal Taddeo to withdraw, but the new kaimakam stubbornly refuses to move, no matter how much the bey snorts his nose. Lindoro and Isabella are greatly amused by the two buffoons. Isabella leads Elvira before the bey and demands that he reconcile with the poor woman. The raging Mustafà resolves that he will make them all pay for making a fool out of him.
Ali concludes that Mustafà deserved to be outwitted by the sly Italian woman.
Taddeo informs Lindoro that he is not really Isabella's uncle – he is in fact her true love; Lindoro merely finds this amusing and asks Taddeo to help him trick Mustafà. They let the bey know that Isabella would like to hold a ceremony initiating Mustafà as a pappataci – that is, to bestow on him a made-up title awarded to “admirers of the fairer sex”, whereupon all he will have to do in life is eat and sleep. Meanwhile, Isabella is preparing the plan for their escape: she dresses up the Italian slaves as pappataci and, with a rousing speech, gets them ready to go home. After Mustafà arrives, they initiate him with great pomp into the pappataci, seat him next to the new kaimakam Taddeo and have food and drink brought for them. As the two amorous clowns munch away, Isabella, Lindoro and the other Italian slaves board a ship. Taddeo is the first to notice the subterfuge, and rushes to the ship in time before it departs: even if he has to give up his hopes for love, at least he can go home. Only much later does Mustafà realise that he has been played for a fool. In his shame, he begs for Elvira to take him back. Peace is restored at last.

Program and cast


Rajna Martin

Isabella, an Italian woman

Viktória Mester

Lindoro, her beloved

Gyula Rab

Mustafá, the bey of Algiers

András Palerdi

Elvira, his wife

Orsolya Sáfár

Zulma, her confidant

Zsófia Kálnay

Taddeo, Isabella’s companion

Csaba Sándor


Attila Dobák

Featuring the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus, as well as the Hungarian National Ballet

Hungarian State Opera


If all the seats are sold out for the selected time, but you still want to see the production on that day, 84 of the extremely affordable standing seats will be sold at the theatre, 2 hours before the start of the performance, with which you can visit the gallery on the 3rd floor. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office of the Budapest Opera House. We would like to draw your attention to the fact that the stage can only be seen to a limited extent from the standing places and the side seats, but at the same time, following the performance is also supported by television broadcasting on the spot.

The Opera House is not only one of the most significant art relic of Budapest, but the symbol of the Hungarian operatic tradition of more than three hundred years as well. The long-awaited moment in Hungarian opera life arrived on September 27, 1884, when, in the presence of Franz Joseph I. the Opera House was opened amid great pomp and ceremony. The event, however, erupted into a small scandal - the curious crowd broke into the entrance hall and overran the security guards in order to catch a glimpse of the splendid Palace on Sugar út. Designed by Mikós Ybl, a major figure of 19th century Hungarian architecture, the construction lived up to the highest expectations. Ornamentation included paintings and sculptures by leading figures of Hungarian art of the time: Károly Lotz, Bertalan Székely, Mór Than and Alajos Stróbl. The great bronze chandelier from Mainz and the stage machinery moda by the Asphaleia company of Vienna were both considered as cutting-edge technology at that time.


Many important artists were guests here including Gustav Mahler, the composer who was director in Budapest from 1887 to 1891. He founded the international prestige of the institution, performing Wagner operas as well as Magcagni’ Cavalleria Rusticana. The Hungarian State Opera has always maintained high professional standards, inviting international stars like Renée Fleming, Cecilia Bartoli, Monserrat Caballé, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, José Cura, Thomas Hampson and Juan Diego Flórez to perform on its stage. The Hungarian cast include outstanding and renowed artists like Éva Marton, Ilona Tokody, Andrea Rost, Dénes Gulyás, Attila Fekete and Gábor Bretz.

Attila Nagy
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