Do you like to laugh until your eyes hurt from crying? Would you enjoy yourself even more if you thought you could impress your friends by going to an opera?

Then, by all means, treat yourself to the Eastman Opera Theater’s performance of Rossini’s “The Turk in Italy,” you culture vulture.

Rossini was a master of comedy, and senses of humor haven’t changed too much since his day. I can testify to that ? I attended a rehearsal of the show last Wednesday and nearly had to leave because I was embarrassing myself from laughing so loudly.

But it’s not just the humor that you’ll get from this show. This music is art. “The quintet in the second act is some of the best music Rossini ever wrote,” conductor Benton Hess said. “There’s certainly nothing that good in ‘Barber.'” The “Barber” which Hess is talking about is the opera “Barber of Seville.” It is by far Rossini’s most popular show, and rightly so ? it ranks high on the scale of absurd plot situations. Plus, everyone knows Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd’s rendition of the show, “Rabbit of Seville.”

Few plots are as absurd and convoluted as “Turk,” however. Are you ready? Albazar is Zaida’s friend and protector. Zaida is the former slave and jilted fianc of the Turk Selim, but Selim loves Fiorilla. Fiorilla is married to Geronio though, and Geronio is jealous of his wife for her inconstancy ? she also flirts with Narciso, the tenor. All this comes out in the first act.

In the second act, the Turk Selim plans to abduct Fiorilla during the ball that evening because he was unable to buy her from Geronio. To thwart the Turk, Zaida attends, dressed as Fiorilla with Narciso disguised as Selim. Thus, in a case of mistaken identity, the four pair up in the wrong couples ? Selim with Zaida and Narciso with Fiorilla. Geronio arrives and he can’t tell who is his real wife.

It is during this confusion that we hear the famous quintet. When the ball is over, the couples leave Geronio confused and desperate, but Albazar assures him that Selim is actually coupled with Zaida. As the opera closes, Zaida departs Italy with Selim, and Geronio and Fiorilla are reconciled.

As the drama and opera unfold, the poet Prosdocimo continues to compose his own comic play, finding inspiration in the other characters and their follies. Prosdocimo is the opera’s one-person Greek chorus, and he often makes humorous remarks at critical moments in the opera. For example, during the finale of Act I, he comments that his “Grand Finale is complete.” In the Eastman Opera Theatre’s production, Prosdocimo is played by this person and that person.

A particularly hilarious moment is the catfight between Zaida and Fiorilla in Act I. Eastman’s production is using the ingenious English translation by Andrew Porter, which, Hess says, “very closely follows the original Italian.” With fingers poised as claws, the ladies sing back and forth to each other, “Let me show you who’s a tigercat,” and “Let me show you who’s a vixen.” My sides were splitting.

Detailed synopses of the plot are easily accessible via the Web or at the library ? look for it by its Italian title of “Il Turco in Italia”? but the outside research isn’t necessary. The English translation is good, there’s a synopsis in the program and most of the performers convey the words clearly.

The cast list includes some EOT debuts ? soprano Jenni Gliere sings with the EOT for the first time in the role of Fiorilla. Mezzo-soprano Christina Gill is another newcomer with her performance of Zaida. Also new are Justin Legris and Mike Kelly, double cast in the tenor

role of Albazar.

The star of the show is the soprano, Fiorilla. “This opera is a real vehicle of virtuosity for the soprano,” Hess said. “Both Erin Palmer and Jenni Gliere are wonderful singers and well-suited to the role.” Typical of the Rossini style is a lot of improvisation, especially from the star singers, so you can expect to hear some stratospherically high notes from Gliere and Palmer.

A surprise attraction is the chorus. Chorusmaster Brian Russell feels that the chorus numbers are some of the best parts of the show. “Not only are the chorus members talented singers, they’re also entertaining actors.”

Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 31 ?Nov. 2, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3 in Kilbourn Hall. Ticket prices are $20, $13.50, and $8, with discounts for UR students, faculty and staff.

On Thursday at 7 p.m. the Friends of Eastman Opera will sponsor an opening night pre-concert chat, presented by Benton Hess, at Max at Eastman Place, 25 Gibbs St. This informative event is free and open to the public. Call 274-1048 for reservations.

Henderson can be reached at

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