Count Ory is Gioachino Rossinis lightweight version of Don Juan. Like the legend of the great womanizer, Ory is young, handsome and entitled. In the Rossini opera that bears his name, Le Comte Ory, the eternal playboy disguises his way into a castle where his unsuspecting target innocently waits. Suffice it to say the finale involves a threesome. How very French.
Rossinis comic opera is sung in French, but it will have English subtitles. Its the next Met: Live in HD performance to be screened at our local movie theater. Durango is one of only two Colorado locations to carry the broadcast.
Metropolitan Opera matinees periodically air in movie houses across the country. We are among the lucky ones to have it in our town. On Met Saturdays, about 100 opera fans from the Four Corners usually drive to the Storyteller complex, settle down with popcorn and thrill to the live broadcast, intermission interviews and all. This production runs 2 hours and 45 minutes.
The book and libretto were written by two of Rossinis French pals, Eugène Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson. Rossini was born in Italy, but he lived in Paris off and on and died there in 1868.
The plot is completely silly with none of the darkness of other Don Juan operas. Set in France around 1200, the story takes place during the Crusades. The Count in question, of course, will have nothing to do with military, religion or any kind of duty. So while most men are away at war, Ory seizes on the idea of available women. Enamored of the Countess Adèle (soprano Diana Damrau), Comte Ory (Juan Diego Flórez) concocts a scheme to seduce her. It involves subterfuge and a series of disguises.
In Act I, Ory takes up residence outside the castle gates, where he plays the role of a wise hermit. He encounters village girls, always a temptation for a Don Juan. They swarm around him seeking advice about matters of love. I told you this was silly. The hermit promises that all wishes will be fulfilled. When the Comte/hermit learns the ladies of the castle have vowed to live as widows until the crusaders return, he ups his game plan.
The new Met production is conceived as a play within a play. Director Bartlett Sher frames the opera as if it were a theatrical production itself. His model is a somewhat stylized commedia dellarte where the mechanics of the production will be apparent. A raised platform with curtains and painted scenery will serve as the acting space. Theres nothing realistic about it.
Set Designer Michael Yeargan has said viewers will be constantly reminded that you are watching a play and aware of all the techniques used to tell the story.
The costumes, designed by Catherine Sober, have been inspired by the weird world of Hieronymus Bosch with silhouettes and textures drawn from a mix of periods and styles.
The first act takes place entirely in daylight outside Countess Adèles castle. The second act takes place inside where the amorous Count Ory disguises himself as a nun. Dont ask. To his surprise and all the women of the palace the crusading men return unexpectedly.
The entire work, Conductor Maurizio Benini has said, is a succession of amorous impulses, ambiguities, misunderstandings, and repressed desires, culminating in a spectacular love trio.
The Rossini trio is famous for its vocal splendor and for its unusual placement toward the end of the opera. Conventionally, operas of the period closed with a musical ensemble spread across the stage. The bedroom trio provides a comic wrap followed by a speedy conclusion.
If you havent heard the young Peruvian tenor who sings the lead role, you will be amazed at the clarity and assurance of his singing. He has one of the most brilliant voices on stage today. With Diana Damrau as the Countess and the mezzo Joyce DiDonato in the pants role of Isolier, the central trio is nothing if not dazzling.
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.