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Absolutely the best performance of Rossini's Le Comte Ory! I enjoyed watching it and I'm glad I have this masterpiece in my library. This Comic Opera stuffed with tasteful sexual tension, good humor and amazing vocals is a true jewel.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Delicious!!Feb. 29 2012
John G. Gleeson Sr.
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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"!
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A singing nun at the MET... and "she's" a tenor!March 9 2012
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I actually saw Rossini's French comedy Le Comte Ory at the MET when the production was new. The staging is by Bartlett Sher and as in his previous two productions for the MET (Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Les Contes d'Hoffmann) he has a knack for capturing the essence of the pieces he produces. Needless to say, this production has more in common with his streamlined and clean-cut production of Il Barbiere as opposed to the more plush and spacious staging of Hoffmann. Fortunately the camera work of the video version accurately represents the aura of the production even if in quite a diverse manner compared to seeing the piece in the theater.
The basic concept, which I thought might be somewhat gimmicky, is a stage within a stage where the audience is seeing the prompter and various stagehands manipulating the various stage effects and scenery as would have been done in 1828, the year of the opera's composition. While such a conception could ultimately prove to be overly distracting, the overall effect proves to be quite successful... and especially so in the storm scene in the second act... where stagehands operate a wind machine, produce thunder from a sheet of metal, and even attempt a primitive attempt at producing lightening. Similarly the costumes have the aura of a Nineteenth Century viewpoint of the Middle Ages and as such are an effective component of the staging.
Still, however inventive the production, in a Bel Canto opera it is the singing that counts and here the MET delivers in spades. In the title role as the lecherous Count Ory, who disguises himself as both a holy man and ultimately as a nun to have his way with the Countess Adele, Juan Diego Florèz is in his element. He is of course a natural Rossinian, but here proves to be quite adept at soft singing as well... as he phrases more elegantly than in the past. Yes, he produces vocal fireworks, but this is tempered by a sense of line that suggests that he understands the difference between the French as opposed to Italian Rossini.
As Adele Diana Damreau is a coloratura tour du force. In the past I have found her to be shrill and not very careful or elegant in her phrasing. However, on this occasion she has her voice perfectly under control. Moreover, she looks graceful and ravishingly beautiful... features that are mirrored by her vocal production... and indeed her voice seems to get more stunning and secure as the evening progresses. In the trouser role of the count's page Isolier Joyce DiDonato is simply spectacular... her voice being evenly produced and plush throughout its entire range. Would that she had an aria all to herself! The remainder of the cast is uniformly excellent and except for a minor tendency to push codas a bit too forcefully in an attempt to create additional excitement (enthusiasm that is already written into the music) the conducting of Maurizio Benini is spot on... and especially in the many complicated concerted numbers where ensemble is precise and accurate to the point of perfection
As for the opera itself, I now consider it to be among Rossini's finest creations... and possibly his most advanced opera. This may have been his penultimate operatic composition, and the colossal Guillaume Tell was still to come, but length and massiveness do not necessarily equal superiority. (Think Wagner at his most overblown!) As evidence I point to the stylish and elegant trio that occurs just prior to the opera's finale... I am not even sure if Mozart composed a piece that was more tastefully elegant.
Ah, the trio... the bedroom ménage a trois... the "threesome" that is the climax of the piece. Yes, this unique trio has a man pretending to be a woman and a man played by a woman both attempting to make love to the soprano... that this scene has two "men" who inadvertently end up in each others arms in a passionate embrace is all part of the hilarity... but here we are witness to an amusing quality that is tempered by the urbanity that is a Rossinian trademark. As a result, nothing seems "over the top", but rather always in check, and that enhances the theatrical effectiveness of this marvelous scene.
So at the very least an interesting opera... and had it never been composed I can't imagine how Offenbach and other composers of French comic opera would ever have existed... and even if Rossini's sophisticated and refined version of farce was hardly ever equaled by later purveyors of the genre. Plus, the tunes, the melodies... what a cornucopia of delights!
The only downside to this production concerns the fact that it is based on the version of the score as published in 1828 as opposed to Rossini's autograph score. It seems that some simplifications were made to both the finales of each act when the opera was made available in printed form... simplifications that would make it easier to perform. Rossini scholar Philip Gossett offered to make the new critical edition of the score based on the composer's autograph available to the MET... However, the MET decided to use the traditional score. So an opportunity was lost, but still as performed the opera comes across as a rare jewel... So, in spite of this unfortunate fact this production is still highly recommended.
---------- Addendum April 9, 2012: I recently had the opportunity to compare the DVD with an audio only recording of the original MET Radio/HD broadcast from 2011. It seems that for the DVD Flòrez opening solo "Que les destins prospères" was taken from another performance where he performed some different and higher-lying embellishments. While it is possible that other edits were incorporated for this commercial release, none were overtly obvious. As an example, I recall that Damrau performed some different and more stratospheric embellishments at the performance I attended in the house, but her performance as represented on the DVD seems totally consistent with that of the original broadcast. Of course, those who attend the MET know that cameras are often present at a variety of performances of operas that are scheduled for HD broadcast. At any rate, this is not surprising, and is simply an interesting observation.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Great Looking DVDApril 3 2012
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I preordered this dvd and got it today...............watching it was a real treat. This probably is the best looking standard dvd of a Met in HD telecast I have seen..............the video quality far surpasses the recent dvds of Turandot, Carmen, Don Pasquale, Armida, Lucia, The Sleepwalker, and Aida. The color balance, contrast, definition and sharpness are very impressive for a standard dvd. So many Met videos look washed out as though a brown filter was put on the camera lens.................not this one...........this is truly impressive.
Equally impressive is the dts 5.1 sound track...................it is so clear and well balanced.............the bass is very well defined and pronounced as it should be when playing and reproducing Rossini's music. Great job by the sound engineers on this disc.
The staging was OK, but not nearly as fluid as the 2005 Glyndebourne dvd of this opera.............the small stage on a stage cramped it........that was really evident in the banquet scene which I thought looked very clunky.
All that aside, this may be the best bel canto singing I have heard in a long time.......all three leads were simply magnificent..they sang well and acted with great comic energy. They did this Rossini masterpiece proud.
The interviews conducted by hostess Rene Flemming were interesting to me as always. Most interesting was a question to Joyce DiDonato about the relative difficulty of singing coloratura in Rossini vs Handel...she said Handel was harder........I never would have guessed that.
This a great opera sung by bel canto singers of the highest level.......highly recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Rossini's heaven!April 13 2012
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I would give this DVD 10 stars out of 5 if I could - 5 for singing and 5 for acting/staging. And while all the reviewers seem to be unanimous about the amazing quality of singing not only from three principals (we're so lucky to live in their absolute prime!), but even from supportive cast, I'll try to explain why I liked the production very much too. First thing Bartlett Sher did right, in my opinion, he limited Met's vast stage by using this old theater set and made the whole space intimate and close to the audience. It also improved the quality of sound tremendously. Secondly, I think this `play within play' concept emphasizes the `French quality' of the whole piece, where no character at any point says (sings really) what he/she thinks. Everybody pretends all the time in Le Comte Ory, and by using and showing to the audience old theater mechanics Bartlett Sher winks at us, saying:' It's all for fun, we're just playing!' There is no conflict of virtue and sin in this piece. Just Rossini's wit, light touch and gorgeous music. Peasant girls pretend they believe the holiness of the hermit (do you really think he invited them to his sham to pray? And this `prayer' brought them all such joy and satisfaction?). Adele and her ladies in waiting are not really shocked to discover the hermit's true identity. And the countess is not a bit terrified to recognize Ory in `Sor Collette' and his bearded knights in a bunch of `nuns'. She is very well equipped and self-confident to participate in his little game and have a lot of fun along the way. Just as Le Comte himself found out very quick that he is in bed with not only Adele, but also Isolier, and didn't mind and played along with pleasure. All this is done here lightly and in good taste, with enormous love and respect for Rossini's genius. At no point Sher compromised performers' comfort by putting them in awkward for singing position, everybody seems to be at ease and having tremendous fun. Goes without saying that Juan Diego Florez, Diana Damrau and Joyce DiDonato are amazing singing actors and gorgeous people, and final trio is pure heaven not only for ears, but for eyes too. I absolutely have to mention charming costumes done by Catherine Zuber. They are pleasure to look at, so colorful, tasteful and inventive, a true miracle nowadays. So, buy this DVD today, it will put a smile on your face for years to come.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Entertaining, gorgeous and vivid.April 23 2012
A. F. S. Mui
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It is very hard to stage a work that targets at the medieval age in the 21st century. MET succeeds here admirably. While the sets and costumes retained the medieval flavour, the acting and direction make this performance vivid and alive for 21st century viewers. This alone deserves 5 stars, but the musical cast deserves equal, if not more, credit. This is a reprisal of Ory by Juan Diego Florez, who has made an early recording in the Pesaro Rossini Festival more than a decade ago. Florez is even better as Comte Ory here. He sings and acts as if he owns the role entirely, and makes this otherwise clownish role totally alive and believable. His brilliant Rossinian tenor is never deployed to better advantage than as in this performance. As the lead lady Comtesse Adele, Diana Damrau makes it clear that right now, she is 'the' coloratura leggiero soprano of choice. Looking surprisingly like a young Meryl Streep, she acts and sings with total conviction and utmost confidence. Her portrayal of a hypocritical young aristocrat is so vivid that she outshines all predecessors of this role on DVD. Joyce Didonato suffers from singing a more secondary role, but her contribution is immense, as she creates a golden triangle with Florez and Damrau in the last Act. It would have been perfect if Ludovic Tezier is assigned to the baritone role, as he was in the earlier Glyndebourne production. This performance is Rossinian opera presented in the best way possible.