Le Comte Ory
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Set in rural France at the time of the Crusades, Le Comte Ory, Rossini' last comic opera, is based on the story of a real-life villainous Count who attempts the seduction of a Countess as she awaits the return of her brother. The o
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Comte Ory is, of course, very similar musically to Rossini's Il viaggio à Reims. He took five of that opera's nine sections and set them to new lyrics for Comte Ory, as well as composing some new music for the score. The reason for this reuse of old music is that Il viaggio was a pièce d'occasion (for the coronation of France's Charles X) and Rossini didn't expect it ever to be revived after its initial performances. I have treasured for years the recording conducted by Claudio Abbado and have always felt that Il viaggio's 'Gran pezzo concertate', its first act finale, is one of Rossini's most glorious creations. He uses it virtually intact for Ory's first act finale and it is done magnificently here.
All that said, though, this performance does not come up to that by Gardiner and his forces (or to López-Cobos's either). The Gardiner set (from 1989) costs only slightly more than this set and I'd urge you to go for that one unless you have particular interest in the doings of the Rossini in Wildbad Festival's productions.
This opera requires a lively tempo, with fine actor/singers, with clear (French) diction, .... timing is everything in comedy. This new offering from Naxos, usually first-rate in providing low-priced opera recordings, fails here in every way. (Their recording of Rossini's, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, under Will Humburg's baton is unsurpassed.) Here, everything went terribly wrong. Brad Cohen and his Czech orchestra, the singers (Rhys-Evans, Salsi, Gerrard, etc). No redeeming aspects at all. A waste of money, and a totally unexpected, disappointing, product from this otherwise superb label.
The best recording of Le Comte Ory remains the Glyndebourne Festival production under Vittorio Gui, dating back to 1957 !
A charming visual interpretation is provided by Kultur Video's DVD of the 1997 Glyndbourne Festival production directed by Jerome Savary, released in 2005, with Massis, Laho, Montague, Tezier, Woodman, et al. Loads of fun, with spirited acting and singing, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Andrew Davis' baton.