The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD’s movie theater showing of Le Comte Ory, which Gioachino Rossini devised by combining songs from one operatic entertainment and another vaudeville play, promises to be a merry hodgepodge, a delightful afternoon of comic opera on April 9, 2011, and again in the evening on April 27.
I say hodgepodge not only because of the two cobbled-together works but also because there are other jumbled and inside-out things in this production directed by Bartlett Sher, Tony-Award-winning Broadway director of the 2008 revival of South Pacific, among other successes.
Even though the story takes place in the 1200s, Sher’s players are costumed in clothes from other centuries. In addition, Sher gives us an opera within an opera, so that we see the stage manager changing and arranging scenery-an appropriate touch, it seems to me, for the Live in HD performance, part of the pleasure of which is watching the behind-the-scenes machinations and magic.
Another part of the pleasure of this opera is Juan Diego Florez, the handsome tenor who plays the count. He stays behind with the women of the court (France, circa 1200) when most of the men go off to fight in the Crusades.
The Comte’s page is what they call a “trouser role,” a woman playing a man, in this case Joyce DiDonato as the page Isolier.
I don’t know why, but whenever there’s one of these “trouser roles,” as they are known, I have a difficult time remembering who is really who, and what gender they really are. It helps me a little to know that these roles were originally played by castrati, high-voiced boys-and since we no longer have such boy singers, women are needed now to sing these parts.
It is an opera of deception and disguise. In the first act the count, wishing to get close to the Countess Adele, disguises himself as a hermit and thus gains the trust of all the women, who earnestly seek his advice in matters of love. He advises the countess to have an affair in order to cure her melancholy, but when she confides her feelings for Isolier, “the hermit” advises her not to get involved with the page of Ory. Soon after, Ory’s identity is discovered by his tutor. The Crusaders will return in two days, so Ory must act quickly to devise a new plan.
In Act II Ory has a new disguise, as a nun-and his group of hairy men don the habit along with him. His page Isolier, seeing through his disguise, tricks him by inviting him to the countess’s chamber, substituting himself for the Countess Adele , the object of Ory’s lust, in the dark.
All this confusion of characters, genders and identities makes for some broad comedy in the bed chamber, underscored by the merry melodies of Rossini.
First performed on March 24 of this year, this production of Le Comte Ory received excellent reviews. Superb performances are given by: tenor Juan Diego Florez as Count Ory, coloratura soprano Diane Damrau as Countess Adele, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato as Isolier, soprano Susanne Resmark as Adele’s companion Ragonde, baritone Stephane Degout as Ory’s friend Raimbaud, and bass Michele Pertusi as Ory’s tutor.
The Metropolitan Opera’s Le Comte Ory will be screened at movie theaters all over the United States and abroad on Saturday, April 9, 2011, 1:00 to 4:10 p.m. Eastern time. (See the Met website for exact encore performance dates and times in the United States and Canada.)
This Met Live in HD performance promises to be funny, visually pleasing, and, best of all, melodic as only Rossini can be. In the Met’s Program Guide, Bartlett Sher is quoted: “. . . I love the deep sense of love that’s in the music. You always feel more capable of understanding love when you get to the end of a Rossini opera.”
The Metropolitan Opera 2010-11 Live in HD Season
New York Times Review by Anthony Tommasini
Tony award winner Bartlett Sher directs
What’s a “trouser role”?