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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Le Comte Ory

Juan Diego Flórez makes a welcome return to the Met in the title role of Le Comte Ory.
The Metropolitan Opera continues its trend of reviving Rossini rarities with this staging of Le Comte Ory, the composer's last comic opera. This is the Met's first production of this infrequently heard opera.

Le Comte Ory was written in 1828 for the Paris Opera, right before Rossini's retirement from active opera composition. In some ways it stands alone in the composer's canon of works as a comedy written in French. It tells the story of a nobleman, determined to win the hand of Countess Adèle, through disguise, deception, and more disguises than Bugs Bunny.

At the MetTalks presentation on March 10, director Bartlett Sher explained his concept of the new production. He is taking the work back to its 1828 roots: a wooden stage within the Met's cavernous auditorium. The second act, in the convent, will be staged by candlelight. Yes, you read that right.

The production reunites the team of Juan Diego Flórez and Diana Damrau, the tenor and soprano who wowed audiences with a stunning display of bel canto fireworks in the company's 2008 staging of Donizetti's La fille du Regiment. The opera also features mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in the trouser role of Isolier, the page who is also attempting to woo the Countess.

A video clip of Juan Diego Flórez in Le Comte Ory.
The staging is by Bartlett Sher, and is the third collaboration between the Met and the Tony®-award winning director.

Recordings Recommendation
I don't really know this opera. But there are three recordings of Le Comte Ory available. I haven't heard them, so I've included what I could learn about them. They are:

Glyndebourne Festival Orchestra cond. Vittorio Gui (EMI, 1956)
Count Ory: Juan Oncina
Countess Adèle: Sari Barabas
Isolier: Cora Canne-Meuer
A mono recording made at Abbey Road, and based on a staging at the tiny but wonderful Glyndebourne Festival, a gem set in the English countryside. This set was originally released by EMI and can be purchased from Amazon as a download, with each disc forming one MP3 track. Yes, that's a pain, but on the bright side, you get the whole opera for $1.98. Caveat emptor!

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.

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