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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Le Comte Ory - opera in two acts (1828) [153:00]
Count Ory - Juan Diego Flórez (tenor)
Countess Adèle - Diana Damrau (soprano)
Isolier - Joyce DiDonato (mezzo)
Raimbaud - Stéphane Degout (baritone)
Tutor - Michele Pertusi (bass)
Ragonde - Susanne Resmark (contralto)
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra/Maurizio Benini
Bartlett Sher (stage production)
rec. live, Metropolitan Opera, 9 April 2011; originally broadcast live in cinemas in HD
Picture: NTSC/16:9
Sound: LPCM Stereo, DTS Surround
Region: 0 (worldwide)
VIRGIN CLASSICS 0709599 [2 DVDs: 153:00]

Experience Classicsonline

Rossini’s Comte Ory was premiered in 1828. It finally made it to the Met in 2011, and to celebrate the occasion this performance was beamed live into cinemas around the world and now gets its release on DVD. The long delay in it reaching New York is easy to explain. The three principals all have to be bel canto wonders, tossing off high notes, roulades and runs with merry abandon. Happily, the Met assembled probably the three finest exponents of these roles you could find anywhere today.
No-one would even consider mounting Ory without a tenor of near miraculous flexibility to sing the title role. Enter Juan Diego Flórez, a bel canto singer without parallel, who previously added Ory to his repertoire at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro - and made an audio recording for DG in 2003. I’ve been lucky enough to hear Flórez in the theatre a few times and every time I come away marvelling that such sounds as his are possible. We’ll never know for sure, but I’m certain that even in Rossini’s own day the composer himself never heard his work sung as well as this. The purity and lightness of Flórez’s voice is astounding. The pyrotechnics of the Count’s part are despatched with miraculous ease, and he scales the dizzy heights above the stave without so much as breaking a sweat, let alone pausing for breath. Not everyone enjoys the sheer brightness of his voice, and for some his timbre is like being dazzled by oncoming headlights, but I’m a fully signed up fan and I think his colour suits the repertoire (and the role) very well. He isn’t quite so skilled as an actor, and the moments where he cavorts around dressed as a Mother Superior are pretty hackneyed, more often than not reverting to a stock gesture or expression, but you’d have to be the most devoted adherent to the Gesamtkunstwerk principle to object to his performance on the basis of this. If we ever hear another Ory as good as this then I’ll be very surprised.
Happily, he is partnered by two ladies who are just as good. DiDonato’s voice has a masculine edge to it that makes her idea for breeches roles like this. She turns Isolier, Ory’s page and admirer of the Countess, into a believable, love-struck boy and the sheer security of her tone is a marvel to behold. She isn’t required to scale the heights like her colleagues, but she is just as effective in her range as they are and it’s a joy to see and hear her in what she does. Diana Damrau has less form in the bel canto repertoire, but she takes to the virtuoso role of the Countess like a duck to water. The voice is rich and full at every level, for all the demands that are placed upon it above the stave, and her entrance aria in particular is outstanding. In the lesser roles, Stéphane Degout plays Raimbaud as a loveable rogue, using his extremely beautiful voice to make this roguish character actually rather likeable. Michele Pertusi in the role of Ory’s tutor is more cardboard, though his deep bass forms a good contrast to the rest of the cast, as does the plummy alto of Susanne Resmark.
Bartlett Sher’s production is less fun, unfortunately. Sher sets the scene in an 18th century theatre for no good reason other than that it means he doesn’t have to bother with cumbersome castle sets and interiors, something he as good as admits in his backstage interview included as an extra. This factor doesn’t get in the way too much, though there is no shortage of dumb “stage hands” lumbering across the set drawing attention to the mechanics, but it adds nothing and all seems a bit unnecessary. Why not just trust the text? The only part of his production that I found actively unpleasant, however, was his staging of the delightful final trio which he turns into a three-in-a-bed grope, distasteful and unnecessary to me. The costumes are sumptuous, contrasting with the often bare surroundings, but the hyperactive camera-work becomes a bit off-putting after a while: in order to capture the action as best they can for a live audience, the Met have a myriad of cameras whizzing all over the proscenium. Too often they can’t resist the temptation to show off what they can do. Benini’s conducting is solid, but perhaps a little too four-square for a light-hearted work like this, so that sometimes the sheer frothy enjoyment of the work gets lost. However, the orchestra plays very well for him.
Make no mistake, though, it is for Flórez, Damrau and DiDonato that you should buy this set. Their performances alone will give hours of pleasure.
Simon Thompson
see also review by Robert Farr












































































































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