COMTE ORY, LE
Cecilia Bartoli in a coloratura duel with a cunning Count’s high C’s
When Cecilia Bartoli makes her stage entrance in this Zurich Opera production of Rossini’s “Le Comte Ory,” one can hardly believe that this prim and proper bourgeoise is really her. But when she starts singing, with “breakneck coloraturas in endless variations” (NZZ Online), it’s clear that we have the passionate powerhouse of bel canto before us.
The title role, however, is that of Mexican tenor Javier Camarena as Count Ory, who “gives us a sampling of his talent not only with his bewitching timbre and suave mellowness, but also with high C’s that never seem affected” (NZZ Online). The opera takes us on a comedic route of plot twists and turns: the count, a notorious Don Juan, is out to conquer Countess Adèle, a task rendered particularly difficult since she and her lady friends have vowed to remain chaste as long as their husbands are away on a crusade. Ory makes it into the Countess’s palace, but not into her heart. The cast also features other top-notch performers such as Rebeca Olvera as the count’s page, Liliana Nikiteanu as Countess Adèle’s faithful companion, Carlos Chausson and Oliver Widmer.
Gioacchino Rossini wrote “Le Comte Ory” – his first French-language comic opera – in Paris in 1828. An example of creative recycling, it incorporated many of the best numbers of the Italian opera “Il viaggio a Reims,” which he wrote in 1825 in honor of the coronation of King Charles X of France. He rightly felt that the music was too good to be used just once. Based on the new edition of the work, this staging reproduces the exact form of the music in which it was presented in Paris at its world premiere.
Set by stage directors Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier in 1960s France, the production subtly delineates the underlying theme of sexual repression and frustration; but more than anything, however, it is pure, unadulterated fun. The Zurich Opera’s early-music ensemble “La Scintilla” plays under the “precise and taut direction” (NZZ Online) of Chinese conductor Muhai Tang. Christian Fenouillat’s stage set and Agostino Cavalca’s costumes convincingly recreate a French town of the past century.