Le Comte Ory was Rossini's next to last opera, and was and is considered by many (Berlioz, Gossett, Osborne)as his comedic masterpiece. It is French, not only in language, but in wit and style, not at all like Il Barbiere or L'Italiana. Much of its impact as music drama necessarily derives from how it is staged.
This performance was a Met HD simulcast last spring, just about one year ago. It has been available on Metplayer and YouTube (in its entirety, with subtitles) for some time, and that is where I became addicted to it. I have watched that little screen for months and am eagerly awaiting its "debut" here on the big screen TV, in surround sound. Here's why:
IT'S WELL SUNG. While every member of the cast sings well, the three principle singers, Juan Diego Florez (JDF), Diana Damrau and Joyce DiDonato are simply superb. This is an opera that requires true coloratura singing from its leads, and it is difficult to assess which of the three turns in the most ... agile performance, although I think it is Ms Damrau "by a nose". The three are known for their "bel canto technique" (Ms. DiDonato sang at the most recent Grammy a short while ago, the first opera singer ever to do so), and Le Comte gives them all ample opportunities to display their talents and skills, which are prodigious.
IT IS WELL STAGED. In fact, the staging is exquisitely well done. At the risk of provoking a debate, I will note that there appear to be some folks who enjoy simply listening to the music, with less interest in the visual aspects of opera. I do this myself. But opera is a form of drama; it exists on the stage. Where I live, live performances are not; we attend the Met simulcasts when we see something we like, and have accumulated a nice selection of opera on DVD. I believe that my other reviews of operas reflect my conviction that opera is best enjoyed as theatre. And that, gentle reader, is why I am so positive on this disc.
Right from the outset, the dramatic aspects of a comedy that is over 180 years old still work here, and the laughter of the sophisticated NYC opera audience is clear and convincing evidence of this. In Act II, when the wily Count has finally tricked his way into Countess Adele's bedroom, not knowing that his page Isolier has also done so, the events is a large bed, in the dark, when, ostensibly, no one knows "who is doing what to whom" are hugely funny. But it is also clear on repeated viewings that the stage director spent a lot of time on the details, right down to small movements of heads and hands that work synergistically to produce the comedic effects. All the while, the three sing exquisitely.
This is an opera that one can sample before buying. Simply check it out on YouTube and decide whether or not you want to experience it on the big TV screen. To me, this was a no brainer.
Having received and viewed this disc today(3/19), I can attest that the quality is first rate, both as to picture quality and sound. I used the 5.1 DTS setting only and got a superb sound "spread" with a real sense of "the house". The "extras" include the usual, somewhat insipid interviews with the stage director, the costumiere and Mmes DiDonato and Damrau.
As the caption reads, "Delicious"!