Friday, March 25, 2011

Opera Note: Le Comte Ory

Rossini wrote Le Comte Ory in 1828.  It had to wait 183 years for its Met premiere and I say it is worth the wait.  It's a breezy, energetic high-spirited romp (if you get my meaning) offering some of the most engaging music that Rossini ever fashioned--French sophistication and Italian brio, as someone said.  It intrigues me that it was written and produced during the reign of Charles X, surely one of the more reactionary sovereigns ever to grace the French throne--all the more amusing in that Rossini pillaged some of the music from a coronation piece he  had offered to the king just three years before: he figured the coronation piece was a dead end, and if he was going to get any mileage out of that warhorse, he'd better trick it up with a fancier vehicle.

It is also the only opera I know of that climaxes in a three-way and this (in the current production) in a Murphy  bed--an undocumented extra that does nothing to distract from the general air of good feeling.  I can think of one other opera whose final high point is a trio, and a pretty grand one at that:  Der Rosenkavalier,  where Hab' mir's gelobt is an effusion autumnal wisdom.  It also is wonderful music but the ladies maintain a tone of austere dignity with all six feet on the ground.

The Rossini threesome centers on Juan Diego Flórez, who pretty much owns bel canto comedy these days--the Met certainly is picture of him in a nun's habit with five-o'clock shadow.  The picture actually, if memory serves, popped up on a CD cover half a dozen or more years ago: these days it is on posters, programs and for all I know, a 70-dollar tee-shirt somewhere.  His companions in the sack are a fit match: Diana Damrau and Joyce DiDonato,each an A-list talent in her own right.  Review the bidding: that's a girl playing a girl; a girl playing a boy, and a boy playing a boy playing a girl.  As they used to say in "Spike Jones and the City Slickers," "I must go away somewhere and figure all this  out."  Just for the record, I don't really think DiDonato is that much smaller than Damrau, but with Damrau in full flouncy costume, DiDinato could be mistaken for one of those hors-d'oeuvre dogs that New Yorkers like to keep in their city apartments.  Bart Sher's set was imaginative and suitably funny and for once, not over the top.

Ambiance footnote: in The Wall Street Journal today, Marshall Heyman goes all hubba hubba about the donor's party.   He's right, the big donors were certainly in evidence, and some febrile cash jockey is probably working on a device right now that will make us all pay $50 to gape and admire (you know you want one!).  But Heyman might have added that thanks to the banquet, the whole cavernous interior public space smelled a lot like a Woolworth's basement.   Next up on the donor projects list: a much, much improved exhaust system.

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