ROSSINI Le Comte Ory
The lovely small Zurich Opernhaus is ideal for Rossini – as it is for Moshe Leiser, Patrice Caurier and their bespoke team of designers who have been working there of late with Cecilia Bartoli and members of the house’s own resident ensemble. Last month I welcomed Decca’s DVD of their fine 2012 staging of Rossini’s Otello and now Rossini’s delectable late comedy Le comte Ory, also stylishly filmed by Olivier Simonnet, follows hard on its heels.
As a staging of Le comte Ory, this is the best we have yet had on DVD – superior to Jérôme Savary’s extremely louche 1990s Glyndebourne production, Lluís Pasqual’s zany Pesaro effort or the 2011 New York Met staging where a stellar cast led by Flórez, Damrau and DiDonato is the principal draw. Leiser and Caurier update the action from 13th-century France to France in the late 1950s. So it’s from the Algerian wars rather than the Crusades that the all too susceptible womenfolk await their husbands’ return. In Act 2 a portrait of General de Gaulle hangs on the wall of the Countess’s comfortably furnished castle apartment; in Act 1 it’s from a caravan parked in the village square that Ory plies his trade. Not that any of this seriously affects the mise en scène as Rossini and his librettists originally imagined it. On the contrary, by choosing its ground carefully (and mercifully eschewing post-1960s flower-power high jinks), this delightfully imagined production actually enhances the distinctively French feel of Rossini’s marvellous score.
Bartoli’s vocal registers may not be quite as finely ‘matched’ as one might hope for in the role of the Countess (written for the French lyric soprano Laure Cinti-Damoreau) but the combination of classy singing and delighted playing quickly has one setting such quibbles aside. The Mexican-born Ory, Javier Camarena, and the Mexican-born Isolier, Rebeca Olvera, are both members of the Zurich company, both on the cusp of larger careers. Olvera is a delight throughout, Camarena a delight once the voice has fully warmed.
It would be idle to suggest that, voice for voice, this performance matches its Metropolitan Opera rival. It’s as a staging that it gives the greater pleasure. It is also extremely well conducted by Muhai Tang. He leads with precision and point, and yet in that most exquisite of operatic nocturnes, the great Act 2 Trio, is capable of drawing sounds of rare beauty from the period instruments of the Orchestra La Scintilla.