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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Le Comte Ory
- opera in two acts (1825)
Count Ory, a young and licentious nobleman - Huw Rhys-Evans (tenor); Countess Adele - Linda Gerrard (soprano); Isolier, page to Count Ory and in love with the Countess Adele - Luisa Islam-Ali-Zade (mezzo); Raimbaud, friend to Count Ory - Luca Salsi (bass-baritone); Governor, tutor to Count Ory - Wojtek Gierlach (bass); Ragonde, companion to Countess Adele - Gloria Montanari (mezzo); Alice, a young peasant - Sofia Soloviy (soprano)
Czech Phiharmonic Choir; Czech Chamber Soloists/Brad Cohen
rec. live, 12, 16, 19 July 2002, Kursaal, Bad Wildbad, Germany, Rossini In Wildbad Festival
NAXOS OPERA CLASSICS 8.660207-08 [66.37 + 60.58]

This opera is Rossini’s only comic opera in French and also the most flagrant example of self-borrowing, which however is understandable. He wrote Il viaggio a Reims in 1825 for the coronation of Charles X, but since the plot was so explicitly associated with the event, Rossini withdrew the score and then he recycled about 50% of the music for Le Comte Ory, which is a wholly different story. Il viaggio a Reims lay forgotten for more than 150 years and was finally revived in the 1980s, when it became a great success. I managed to see it in Helsinki a few years ago directed by Dario Fo, who was also responsible for the sets and the costumes. It was a colourful and entertaining performance but the plot was so thin that in the second act it felt a bit boring. This is an adjective that cannot be applied to Le Comte Ory, especially so in this sensitive and spirited reading from the “Rossini in Wildbad” festival. It was recorded live and one can hear clearly that there are lots of things going on. Sometimes, especially in the second act, there is so much bumping and stamping that the music comes out second best. Theatrical atmosphere is a good thing but I can accept it more readily when seeing with my own eyes, whether in the theatre or on DVD, what is going on. Here one can only guess and that is a bit frustrating. 

By and large this is the only frustrating thing about this recording since it gives practically unalloyed pleasure in all other respects. Brad Cohen is an experienced Rossinian and he conducts a fizzing performance, brisk but not over-energetic. He also gives the singers freedom to expand in the more lyrical passages. The Czech choir and orchestra are excellent and the recording is everything one could wish for from a live occasion; I just wish some wizard could wash away the stage noise, but that’s another story. 

The cast is splendid and are clearly inside their roles. Welsh tenor Huw Rhys-Evans in the title role has a fine voice with easy top, a fine pianissimo and in the second act duo with the Countess he also exposes a good trill. He sings with ardour but tends to push his voice beyond what is natural for him at which point the tone hardens. Linda Gerrard’s Countess is even better and executes her breakneck coloratura with splendour. She grows through the performance and is magnificent in the long trio just before the finale. Luisa Islam-Ali-Zade, who already has a Naxos Rossini to her credit, is in the same league and her duet with the Count’s Tutor in act 1 is great singing. The other mezzo-soprano, Gloria Montanari, is more vibrant and thick-voiced but contributes worthily. Of the two deep-voiced men the young Luca Salsi has a fine baritone and is a powerful singer. Polish-born Wojtek Gierlach is quite simply equipped with one of the fruitiest true bass voices to be heard in this repertoire and he relishes the Tutor’s aria – one of the numbers that was brought over from Il viaggio a Reims. 

At the usual Naxos give-away price this is a highly recommendable version of one of Rossini’s most spirited comedies. One has to make do without a printed libretto although it can be downloaded from the Naxos website. Keith Anderson’s synopsis is a valuable substitute. 

Göran Forsling

see also Review by Robert Farr

 

 


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