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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Le Comte Ory - Opera in two acts [134:00]
Le Comte Ory – Yijie Shi (tenor); Le Gouverneur – Lorenzo Regazzo (bass); Isolier – Laura Polverelli (mezzo); Raimbaud – Roberto De Candia (baritone); La Comtesse Adèle – Maria José Moreno (soprano); Dame Ragonde – Natalia Gavrilan (mezzo); Alice – Rinnat Moriah (soprano)
Prague Chamber Choir; Orchestra of the Teatro Communale di Bologna/Paolo Carignani
Lluis Pasqual (director and designer)
rec. live, Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro, 2009
Region Code 0; NTSC; Picture format 16:9; PCM Stereo, DD 5.1
Subtitles in English, German, Spanish, Italian and Korean
Bonus feature “The Making of Le Comte Ory” [26:00]
ARTHAUS MUSIK 101 649 DVD [134:00+26:00]

Large parts of Le Comte Ory, especially of the First Act, are re-workings of music from the occasional opera Il viaggio a Reims but that does not prevent it being amongst the composer’s best works. It is indeed arguable that it is the best of his comic operas, with a musical and dramatic sophistication that makes a good performance a very special pleasure. To achieve this, however, requires a subtlety of musical and dramatic approach and an absence of any coarseness which is surprisingly rare.
For reasons that are by no means clear, in this production the work is set in an hotel at which the guests are invited to a soirée based on the legend of Count Ory. They dress up as the characters in a rudimentary way. The director clearly gets much fun from the disguise of the men as nuns in Act 2 when their nuns’ habits are worn over old-fashioned underwear which they take every opportunity to reveal. Whether the audience gets as much fun from this is doubtful – for me the first few “flashes” were more than enough repetitions of a not very funny idea. In Act 1 for much of the time the director seems unable to take any advantage of setting the action in an hotel, and simply has the singers facing the audience directly and singing at them. If this is the best that can be done it would at least be more decorative to do it in medieval dress and make rather more pretence at following the plot. Productions I have seen at Sadlers Wells and Glyndebourne have done this with results that were visually and dramatically satisfying as well as much funnier. I am sure that it could be done again.
The musical performance is at once satisfactory and maddening. Satisfactory in that all of the cast are able to negotiate with only occasional smudges Rossini’s very demanding writing; much less satisfactory in that the conductor’s very brusque approach wholly lacks elegance. He is apparently unwilling to allow the singer’s time to breathe naturally with the music or to shape the music with the finesse to which it responds so well. Listening to earlier recordings with such artists as Juan Oncina, Juan Diego Flórez and Marc Laho, and recalling performances by the late John Brecknock, makes it immediately apparent that for all their undoubted flexibility and ease throughout their range the singers on this DVD are not given the necessary opportunity to bring out the subtle and engaging charm of the opera. Fortunately the days when a Rossini enthusiast would have to be grateful for even such a flawed performance are gone. More than adequate alternatives can be found easily. I hope, nonetheless, that the potentially very good cast here may be heard one day in a version with a director and conductor who allow them a real chance to display their very obvious abilities.
John Sheppard