Italian mezzo-soprano Daniela Barcellona checks in at about five-foot-ten, and in Houston Grand Opera’s second offering of the season — The Italian Girl in Algiers — she is taller than Lawrence Brownlee, who plays her lover, Lindoro. Rather than being a drawback, this plays to her advantage as she makes her HGO debut in the lead role of Isabella, who journeys after her Lindoro, an Italian slave to Mustafa, and then is shipwrecked and ends up in Algiers. ''She is a commander. She manipulates Mustafa,'' Barcellona says, laughing. Mustafa (played by Patrick Carfizzi, last seen as Dr. Bartolo in Gioachino Rossini's The Barber of Seville) has decided to shake up his love life and that to do so, he needs an Italian woman, not the same old, same old from his wife and harem. Isabella arrives on cue, and Mustafa is smitten.
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Rossini wrote this earlier opera buffa, which was embraced by the Italian public when it was released in 1813 and then faded somewhat in popularity until right after World War II, when it experienced a revival of interest. Barcellona, known for her bel canto (beautiful singing) roles, performed mostly in Europe in the early stages of her career, but now has an American agent and says she will be singing more often in the United States. Her favorite song she does in this opera? ''The last one. Because it's so full of pyrotechnical notes. It's the most frightening aria in the opera for me, but I do love it.''
Fri., Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 28, 2 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 7, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 11, 2 p.m., 2012