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Friday, January 11, 2013

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Le Comte Ory

Juan Diego Flórez gets back in the habit.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Habit forming: Juan Diego Flórez returns in the title role of Le Comte Ory.
Photo by Marty Sohl © 2011 The Metropolitan Opera.
Opinions were divided regarding the first run of Bartlett Sher's production of Rossini's Le Comte Ory, a madcap staging that imported 19th century production values to the hi-tech stage of the Met. This reprise features the welcome return of Juan Diego Flórez in the title role. This bel canto tenor's handsome appearance and vocal agility remind some opera-lovers of the early career of Luciano Pavarotti.

Mr. Sher presents a 19th century-style wooden stage built within the Met's cavernous proscenium, with visible onstage mechanics and (deliberately) primitive special effects. Fly-wheels crank painted scenery, wigged stagehands move objects about, and the last act that takes place entirely by candlelight. Rob Besserer returns as the Prompter, and watching this talented physical comedian mis-manage the onstage doings is half the fun.

Ory is a spiritual cousin to Mozart's Don Giovanni, without that more famous character's propensity for leaving corpses in his wake. The Count spends the opera competing with his valet, Isolier (Karine Deshayes) for the hand of the beautiful Countess Adèle (Pretty Yende, in her Met debut). Determined to get the girl, he adapts more disguises than Maxwell Q. Klinger in an effort to bed the soprano.

Le Comte Ory opens January 17, 2013.
Recordings Recommendation
Rossini's opera has been popular of late, and is available on CD and MP3.

Orchestre et Choeur de l'Opera de Lyon cond. John Eliot Gardiner (Philips, 1988)
Count Ory: John Aler
Countess Adèle: Sumi Jo
Isolier: Diana Montague
This was one of John Eliot Gardiner's early opera recordings. The period performance expert accompanies the sparkling soprano of Korean soprano Sumi Jo. This was an award-winning recording and has long been considered an industry standard of this rare opera. Since the entire Philips catalogue was effectively deleted when that label was absorbed into Decca, this set was re-released by ArkivMusic in 2006.

Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna cond. Jesús López-Cobos (DG, 2004)
Count Ory: Juan Diego Flórez
Countess Adèle: Stefania Bonfadelli
Isolier: Marie-Ange Todorovitch
This recording was made at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro in 2003, and was one of Mr. Flórez' first exposures on the internatonal operatic stage. Featuring Maestro López-Cobos, an experienced Rossini conductor who brings charm and sparkle to this composer's music. The rest of the cast is middling--it is Mr. Flores' presence that is the selling point here.

Return to the Superconductor 2012-2013 Metropolitan Opera Season Preview.
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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.