Discover the story of Rossini's Il turco in Italia
In the city of Naples, author Prosdocimo has writer’s block. He’s struggling to write a comedy, and just can’t seem to find the right material. But when he stumbles on a gypsy camp down by the harbour, that soon changes. What better way to start his play than with a colourful Gypsy scene? At that moment his old friend Geronio appears, keen to find a fortune teller to read his palm. But clever gypsy Zaida quickly sees through the foolish old man and mocks him as a cuckold.
Intrigued by Zaida, Prosdocimo discovers that she was forced to flee from Prince Selim’s harem after a jealous rival accused her of infidelity. Still in love with the Prince, she now lives unhappily in hiding, longing to be reunited with him. Prosdocimo promises to help her.
Already bored by married life, Geronio’s flirtatious young wife Fiorilla sings of the delights of ever-changing lovers. Right on cue, a wealthy Turk disembarks in the harbour. He makes a beeline for pretty Fiorilla, who in turn feels an instant attraction to the handsome stranger. She invites him home for coffee, much to the horror of both her husband and her lover Narciso. Discovering that the Turk is none other than Zaida’s Prince Selim, Prosdocimo realises that he has unwittingly assembled the perfect cast for his comedy.
Fired up with righteous jealousy, Geronio interrupts his wife’s assignation. But she persuades him to be courteous, prompting Selim to marvel at the tolerant ways of Italian husbands. He immediately arranges another assignation with Fiorilla. A furious Geronio tries to chastise his wife, who neatly turns the tables, forcing him to beg for her forgiveness.
Planning to elope together, Fiorilla and Selim head to see one another. But when Selim encounters Zaida and recognises his former lover, old passions are rekindled and new jealousies set aflame. Prosdocimo couldn’t be more delighted with the cat-fight that ensues – a perfect finale!
Determined to have Fiorilla, Selim offers to buy her from her husband, but when a horrified Geronio refuses the two nearly come to blows. Meanwhile Fiorilla has decided that it is time for Selim to choose between herself and Zaida. Despite the Turk’s vacillations she pushes forward with their plans, hoping that a masked ball will give them a good opportunity to slip away once and for all.
The writer warns Geronio of the lovers’ scheme, and advises that he and Zaida should wear the same costumes as Selim and Fiorilla in order to confound them. But things don’t go quite to plan, especially as Narciso also shows up in the same costume as Selim. The four young lovers all successfully make their exits (if not necessarily with the correct partners) and Geronio is left alone and furious.
Brought together in the confusion of the ball, Selim and Zaida have reunited and plan to return to Turkey together. While they make their preparations, Geronio and Fiorilla must also negotiate a tricky reconciliation. When her husband locks the doors against her, appearing to cast her off, Fiorilla finally realises the error of her ways. Geronio forgives her, and both couples celebrate their future lives together. Prosdocimo is overjoyed – he has his happy ending.