[Met Performance] CID:353897
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
Le Comte Ory {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/24/2011., Sirius XM Broadcast live
Streamed at metopera.org

(Debuts: Susanne Resmark

Metropolitan Opera House
March 24, 2011 Broadcast/Streamed

Metropolitan Opera Premiere

Gioacchino Rossini--Eugene Scribe/Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson

Count Ory...............Juan Diego Flórez
Countess Adèle..........Diana Damrau
Isolier.................Joyce DiDonato
Raimbaud................Stéphane Degout
Tutor...................Michele Pertusi
Alice...................Monica Yunus
Ragonde.................Susanne Resmark [Debut]
Courtier................Tony Stevenson
Courtier................Tyler Simpson
Prompter................Rob Besserer

Conductor...............Maurizio Benini

Production..............Bartlett Sher
Set Designer............Michael Yeargan
Costume Designer........Catherine Zuber
Lighting Designer.......Brian MacDevitt

The production a gift of The Sybil B. Harrington Endowment Fund

Le Comte Ory received eight performances this season.

Broadcast live on Sirius XM Metropolitan Opera Radio
Streamed at metopera.org

Production photos of Le Comte Ory by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera.

Review of Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times

With Rossini's Mix of This and That, the Met Finds an Excuse for a Romp

When you consider how it came into being, "Le Comte Ory," Rossini's final comic opera, should have turned out a mess. It was a loose amalgamation of two completely different works: "Il Viaggio a Reims," an operatic entertainment Rossini wrote to celebrate the coronation of Charles X in France, and a one-act vaudeville play, by Eugène Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson, about the exploits of a libidinous young nobleman, Count Ory, and his band of knights, who weasel their way into a French convent during the Crusades.

Yet Rossini worked a kind of miracle. When "Le Comte Ory" had its premiere at the Paris Opera in 1828, with the vaudeville altered and expanded by the playwrights into a two-act comic libretto, and six extended musical numbers from "Il Viaggio" recycled into the new score, it was rightly hailed as one of Rossini's wittiest and most seamless and sophisticated works.

For whatever reasons, "Le Comte Ory" has never nabbed a spot in the standard repertory. It had never been presented at the Metropolitan Opera until Thursday night, when the director Bartlett Sher's lively, colorful and inventive production was introduced. Maurizio Benini conducted a stylish and buoyant, if sometimes breathless, performance.

The terrific cast was headed by the tenor Juan Diego Flórez as Ory, who spends much of the first act disguised as a hermit and much of the second impersonating a nun, all in an absurd attempt to ensnare a resistant young countess, Adèle. The soprano Diana Damrau brought her lustrous, agile coloratura soprano voice, and charisma galore, to Adèle. The superb mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato sang Isolier, Ory's savvy page, who also yearns for Adèle's love and winds up winning it, or so it seems at the end of this farcical, yet emotionally multilayered, opera. All three singers appeared during the 2006-7 season in "Barbiere di Siviglia," his Met debut. That madcap show was a popular hit. Mr. Sher's work in "Le Comte Ory" is more original and riskier.

At first I thought I wouldn't like it. Mr. Sher stages "Ory" as an opera within an opera. Michael Yeargan's set depicts an old barn of a place, with brick walls lined with candles. But within that big room there is a miniature theater with a low platform stage and a curtain in back. A nonspeaking, invented character called the Prompter (Rob Besserer) plays a bedraggled old stage manager for a performance of "Le Comte Ory." He issues silent orders to his crew members, who roll trees and staircases into place and manipulate thunder and wind machines during a storm scene. Catherine Zuber's costumes are a charming, daffy mix of styles. Rossini's opera is set around 1200 in Formoutiers Castle. This production takes place in some timeless Rossini Land.

Nothing in "Ory" invites an opera-within-an-opera concept. Still, Rossini artificially turned two unrelated pieces into a completely reconceived opera, so the artifice of Mr. Sher's staging is somehow resonant. Moreover, for all the antics, Mr. Sher takes Rossini's characters and their romantic entanglements seriously and coaxes precise, nuanced performances from his gifted cast. As Act I opens, most of the men at court have gone off to fight in the Crusades. The women who are left behind vow to live like widows until their husbands (and the unmarried Adèle's brother, a count) return. The cagey Ory, sensing an opportunity, disguises himself as a hermit and is viewed by the solitary women as an ascetic, a seer. In one frenetic chorus, they voice their earthly desires to this sympathetic stranger and ply him with gifts.

The bereft, adrift Adèle seeks counsel from the hermit. Though Mr. Flórez made a wily impostor with his boyish face protruding from a scraggly black wig and beard, he came across as dangerously manipulative. Telling Adèle to deal with her anguish by engaging in a love affair, he sang Rossini's sly, winding phrases with knowing ardor. Rossini gives Adèle skittish bursts of coloratura passagework to convey the absurdity of her exaggerated emotions, which Ms. Damrau dispatched brilliantly. Yet these phrases teem with intensity and patches of poignant lyricism, meltingly conveyed by this impressive singer.

Ory's charade is exposed during the boisterous choral ensemble that ends the first act. In Act II the count tries another tack, impersonating a nun to breach the room where Adèle is secluded with her loyal women. His band of men join in the ruse, and the Met's male choristers, half of them bearded, look both ridiculous and ominous in their habits, with wide-winged wimples right out of "The Flying Nun." In a slapstick scene the men, left alone, break into a stash of wine. Again, Rossini goes for more than easy laughs. The bawdy drinking song alternates with fake religious choral passages when Adèle's watchful attendant checks in on the "nuns."

A long comic duet between Adèle and Ory becomes surprisingly intense when, as Sister Colette, he feigns fear and keeps embracing the unsuspecting Adèle and begging for affection. As performed here, Rossini's music tapped into the ambiguity of Adèle's confusion and the aggressiveness of Ory's role-playing.

The most astonishing scene comes toward the end of Act II. Adèle has bonded with Isolier, Ory's page, triumphantly performed by Ms. DiDonato, who sang with plush sound and impeccable passagework, sent top notes soaring and conveyed all the swagger of a smitten page. Isolier and Adèle teach Ory a lesson. When he sneaks into Adèle's bedroom, there waiting for him in bed, next to Adèle, is Isolier. The scene is an elaborate trio, subdued and sensual. Mr. Sher puts the three singers in a big bed (cranked almost upright by the Prompter), and the seduction becomes a confused tangle of limbs amid dim light. Do not let that gentle oom-pah-pah accompaniment fool you. Rossini's insinuating music is hot, especially in this vocally haunting, physically uninhibited performance.

The whole cast was strong, including the baritone Stéphane Degout as Ory's hearty friend Raimbaud, the bass Michele Pertusi as Ory's exasperated tutor, and Susanne Resmark, a warm, dark-hued Swedish soprano, in her Met debut as Ragonde, Adèle's attendant.

Mr. Flórez sang Ory to acclaim at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro in 2003, a performance recorded live on Deutsche Grammophon. On Thursday he sang with pliant phrasing, nimble runs and easy high C's. The quick vibrato and slightly nasal quality of his sound have never been quite to my taste. He received an enormous ovation. We probably have him to thank for inspiring the Met to present "Le Comte Ory."

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