COMPOSERS: Gioachino Rossini
LABELS: Virgin Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Rossini: Le Comte Ory
WORKS: Le Comte Ory
PERFORMER: Juan Diego Flórez, Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato, Stéphane Degout, Michele Pertusi; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus/Maurizio Benini; dir. Barlett Sher
CATALOGUE NO: 0709599
It has taken Count Ory more than 180 years to arrive in New York, but it’s worth the wait. Played out in an 18th-century theatre built within the cavernous stage of the Metropolitan Opera, Bartlett Sher’s production is wise, witty and completely faithful to the spirit of the piece. The decrepit stage-director and his liveried stagehands summon up the Act II storm with an ancient wind machine and thunder sheets. It adds immensely to the improbable theatricality of the priapic Count seeking refuge in Countess Adèle’s castle with his followers disguised as nuns.
There sits Adèle and her ladies in a boudoir, with yards of ribbon and acres of flesh, both in rosebud pink. Don’t be fooled by their vow to forswear men while their knights are away at the crusades.
As Adèle, Diana Damrau is peerless, giving a bravura comic performance made from winks and nudges, heavy theatrical sighing and a heaving bosom. Rossini’s music might have been written for her diamond-bright coloratura and gravity-defying top notes. Joyce DiDonato is equally fine as the Count’s page, Isolier, who is in love with Adèle. And who could ask for a more winning Ory than Juan Diego Flórez, sanctimonious when disguised as the lecherous hermit in Act I, and then a nun in need of a close shave. The three of them sing the final trio lying in the Countess’s bed, making the most of Rossini’s delight in the sexual ambiguity of a man who is pretending to be a nun trying to seduce a woman who is in love with a page who is really a girl. Delicious.