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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Le Comte Ory - opéra comique in two acts (1828)
French libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson based on their comedy of the same name.
Count Ory - Juan Diego Flórez (tenor);
Countess Adèle - Diana Damrau (soprano);
Isolier - Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano);
Raimbaud - Stéphane Degout (baritone);
Ragonde - Susanne Resmark (alto)
Governor - Michele Pertusi (bass);
The Prompter – Rob Besserer;
Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera, New York/Maurizio Benini
Director: Bartlett Sher
Set Designer: Michael Yeargen; Costume Designer: Catherine Zuber
Video direction: Gary Halvorson
rec. Live 9th April 2011 Metropolitan Opera House, New York
Picture format: 16.9, 1 x BD50 - Filmed in High Definition.
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian
Sound formats:
a) DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1ch, 48kHz
b) Stereo LPCM 2.0ch, 48kHz/24 bit
Bonus: Backstage interviews by Renée Fleming with Juan Diego Florez, Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato and others.
ERATO Blu-ray 2564 605450 [153:00 plus bonus footage]

Erato has released a live performance from the Metropolitan Opera, New York of Rossini’s rarely staged opéra comique Le Comte Ory (Count Ory). Presented for the first time by the Met in March 2011 this production by American theatre director Bart Sher was filmed live 2 weeks later and features a trio of today’s leading bel canto stars Juan Diego Flórez, Diana Damrau and Joyce DiDonato.

Set in the Touraine province of France around 1200, during the time of the crusades, Le Comte Ory with its improbable yet delightful story was successfully premièred in 1828 at the Paris Opéra rather than the Théâtre l'Opéra-Comique. For Le Comte Ory Rossini recycled material that he had previously used a few years earlier in his dramma giocoso Il viaggio a Reims. Compared to many operas the plot of Le Comte Ory is relatively simple. Countess Adèle’s brother and his men leave for the Crusades and she withdraws to her castle with her ladies-in-waiting. Intent on seducing the moral Countess, the lascivious Count Ory disguises himself first as a bearded hermit and secondly as a Mother Superior to gain access to the castle. Ory’s plan is spoilt by the intervention of his page Isolier, who is in love with the Countess, and by the return of the Crusaders.

For this new production Bart Sher, the Tony Award winning, director has once again collaborated with set designer Michael Yeargen and costume designer Catherine Zuber. The Met stage is one of the largest in the world and as comic operas are usually best suited to a small stage it is no surprise that Bart Sher has gone for that old favourite a ‘theatre stage within theatre stage’, a set design to reduce the space which has entailed bringing in the walls as far as possible. Some of the visible stage mechanisms and props are operated by a creepy stagehand called the prompter played by Rob Besserer. Yeargen’s straightforward and practical set is based on the 17th century Teatro Farnese in Parma. Whilst remaining faithful to the libretto set in the middle ages the staging is given 19th century theatricality. Evidently the Hieronymus Bosch triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights - also from the Middle A ges - is the inspiration behind Zuber’s mainly pastel coloured costumes, the main exceptions being Ory and Isolier’s outfit and the nuns’ habits. A mix of styles, the costumes range from middle ages crusaders in armour to 19th century ladies in waiting.

Directorial requirements aside, it is the genius of Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez, a bel canto master, as the youthful and lustful nobleman Count Ory which brings the opera to life. Flórez dazzles with his fluid and expressive voice with smooth lines and intelligent phrasing, qualities supplemented by his gift for acting which is as good as any singer of his generation. From the start of act 2 especially enjoyable is the humorous duet Ah, quel respct, madame between Adèle and Ory disguised as a Mother Superior. Flórez performance is so superior as Ory that I fear for other productions of Le Comte Ory, unable to engage anyone of the same class.

Dressed mainly in conspicuous violet (act 1) and fuschia (act 2) ball gowns as the suitably demure Countess Adèle soprano Diana Damrau shines brightly. Her rendition of the ornate aria En proie à la tristesse is impressive, sung with limpid purity. Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato is very much at home in the trouser role of Isolier, squire to Ory, who is in love with Adèle. Decked out like a swashbuckler in maroon leather jacket and dark brown pirate boots DiDonato’s fiery yet cheerful gusts of dazzling coloratura, for which she is renowned, linger long in the memory.

Baritone Stéphane Degout is well cast as Raimbaud, Ory’s friend, and makes an excellent job of his patter song. Dressed as a nun describing the plundering of the castle wine cellar Degout sings with clarity and assurance, displaying a rich deep timbre. In the role of the Ragonde, Adèle’s matronly companion, dramatic Swedish mezzo-soprano Susanne Resmark seems slightly ill at ease surely not helped by nearly bursting out of her bodice. Nevertheless Rasmark’s singing is highly competent projecting extremely well and displaying crystal clear diction. A real treat and a highlight is provided by the act 2 farcical trio romp on a four poster bed, with the mattress elevated for visual impact, in which both Ory and Isolier end up caressing Adèle. Recorded in live performance conductor Maurizio Benini keeps up a sensibly brisk pace with the Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera responding with its usual aplomb, while the Met chorus has been clearly well coached by Donald Palumbo.

The video direction by Gary Halvorson is secure, employing a variety of shots and keeping everything moving slickly. There are no problems whatsoever with the sound options employed on this Blu-Ray disc, a choice between LPCM Stereo and Surround Sound being clear and providing a pleasing balance between singers and orchestra. Filmed in High Definition the picture is sharply defined and most satisfyingly coloured. In the accompanying booklet an excellent essay ‘Bartlett Sher Directs Le Comte Ory’ by Philipp Brieler is extremely helpful. Minor grumbles about the booklet are the lack of synopsis and track listing. The bonus video material of backstage interviews by Renée Fleming with Florez, Damrau, DiDonato and others may be short yet is interesting and informative.

Michael Cookson



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