ROSSINI Le Comte Ory López-Cobos

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GIOACCHINO ROSSINI

Le Comte Ory
Flórez · Bonfadelli
Todovitch · Miles
Orchestra del Teatro Comunale
di Bologna
Jesús López-Cobos
Int. Release 01 Aug. 2004
2 CDs / Download
CD DDD 0289 477 5020 8 GH 2


Track List

CD 1: Rossini: Le Comte Ory

Gioacchino Rossini (1792 - 1868)
Le Comte Ory

Act 1

Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Bruno Pratico, Rosella Bevacqua, Marina de Liso, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Juan Diego Flórez, Marina de Liso, Rosella Bevacqua, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Juan Diego Flórez, Rosella Bevacqua, Marina de Liso, Bruno Pratico, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Marina de Liso, Juan Diego Flórez, Bruno Pratico, Rosella Bevacqua, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Alastair Miles, Marie-Ange Todorovitch, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Alastair Miles, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Alastair Miles, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Alastair Miles, Rosella Bevacqua, Marie-Ange Todorovitch, Juan Diego Flórez, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Marie-Ange Todorovitch, Juan Diego Flórez, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Stefania Bonfadelli, Marie-Ange Todorovitch, Juan Diego Flórez, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Stefania Bonfadelli, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Marie-Ange Todorovitch, Juan Diego Flórez, Stefania Bonfadelli, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Stefania Bonfadelli, Juan Diego Flórez, Marie-Ange Todorovitch, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Marie-Ange Todorovitch, Juan Diego Flórez, Stefania Bonfadelli, Alastair Miles, Bruno Pratico, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Stefania Bonfadelli, Marie-Ange Todorovitch, Rosella Bevacqua, Marina de Liso, Juan Diego Flórez, Bruno Pratico, Alastair Miles, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Stefania Bonfadelli, Marina de Liso, Marie-Ange Todorovitch, Rosella Bevacqua, Juan Diego Flórez, Bruno Pratico, Alastair Miles, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Juan Diego Flórez, Marie-Ange Todorovitch, Marina de Liso, Stefania Bonfadelli, Bruno Pratico, Alastair Miles, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Total Playing Time 1:06:11

CD 2: Rossini: Le Comte Ory

Gioacchino Rossini (1792 - 1868)
Le Comte Ory

Act 2

Stefania Bonfadelli, Marina de Liso, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Juan Diego Flórez, Bruno Pratico, Alastair Miles, Stefania Bonfadelli, Marina de Liso, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Marina de Liso, Stefania Bonfadelli, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Juan Diego Flórez, Stefania Bonfadelli, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Stefania Bonfadelli, Juan Diego Flórez, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Juan Diego Flórez, Alastair Miles, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Alastair Miles, Juan Diego Flórez, Bruno Pratico, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Bruno Pratico, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Juan Diego Flórez, Bruno Pratico, Alastair Miles, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Juan Diego Flórez, Stefania Bonfadelli, Marina de Liso, Marie-Ange Todorovitch, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Juan Diego Flórez, Marie-Ange Todorovitch, Stefania Bonfadelli, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Stefania Bonfadelli, Juan Diego Flórez, Marie-Ange Todorovitch, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Stefania Bonfadelli, Marina de Liso, Juan Diego Flórez, Coro da Camera di Praga, Lubomir Matl, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Jesús López-Cobos

Total Playing Time 1:04:15

"A delightful mess; even moreso when the tenor is none less than Juan Diego Flórez in his best form, darting the high notes of his taxing role with ludicrous ease, dominating the stage with every sort of bawdy innuendo or serpentine movement and changing disguises with equal nimbleness: a fake hermit, a real tyrant, a passionate amoroso or whatever else. From his opening, high C-filled aria "Que le destins prospères," the audience appeared struck dumb under his spell and hardly lost sight of him during his many appearances, in spite of the overwhelming presence which Pasqual allotted to heavyweight (in many a sense) buffo Bruno Praticò as Raimbaud."

"With Jesús López Cobos on the podium, the Bologna Theatre Orchestra in the pit, and Juan Diego Flórez in the title role, the Rossini Opera Festival could guarantee fleet tempi, solid top notes and plenty of vocal charisma. Add Pesaro stalwart Bruno Praticò in the comic role of Rimbaud, and what could possibly go wrong?
Flórez was predictably alluring as the playboy Count. Even in disguises of varying absurdity, from priest to nun, his erotic appeal is as constant as his famously flawless coloratura. Flórez is still young, still beautiful, and still appallingly gifted . . . "

. . . the singing and the music triumphed, offering pure magic, such as the trio when Ory believes he is making love to the Countess but in fact is wooing his own page Isolier (Marie-Ange Todorovitch) whose hand he is caressing. Like "Soave sia il vento" in "Così", a divine light is cast on a farcical situation.

Florez is heroically clear, strong and agile . . .

Flórez has terrific presence, a well-nigh flawless technique, and a keen sense of the French vocal style . . . The new set has colour, life, dash, brio, and a measure of wit. It also has Juan Diego Flórez. Enough to be going on with? Absolutely.

Flórez rises to the challenge as no recorded tenor ever has before him. Yes, the vocal fireworks are astonishing - but even more wonderful is the sense of delicacy, grace and even pathos which he brings to the jokey role.

As the page Isolier, a Cherubino-type who's smitten with the Countess, Marie-Ange Todorovitch is excellent, with boyish low notes and great perkiness. The two low voices -- Alastair Miles (Le Gouverneur) and Bruno Praticò (Raimbaud) ¿ are good Rossinians, handling their ornamented music well and singing with great rhythmic accuracy. Jesús López-Cobos leads a performance which varies nicely between the opera's more rambunctious moments and, say, the marvellous, soft Countess-Ory duet in Act 2. He holds the Bologna orchestra and Prague Chamber Choir on a tight rein . . . the recording of choice. Rossini would love Flórez, so will you.

. . . there are few to touch him [Floréz] . . . The best singing comes from Todorovitch . . . her warm mezzo reaching up easily to an unstrained top B. Miles is good as the Tutor . . . Praticò . . . is a great character bass . . .

The ¿opera album of the year¿ is Rossini¿s ¿Le Comte Ory¿.

. . . Juan Diego Flórez sings the title role with a spirit, technical finish and panache largely lacking elsewhere. He is a paragon.

"Dass zu schlechthin jeder Arie irgendeine Spielastik geboten wird - das stört bei Rossini (anders als bei Mozart) niemanden, solange die Darbietung der Musik nicht ernsthaft gefährdet ist. Beim Wundertenor Juan Diego Flórez besteht diese Gefahr ohnehin nicht: er könnte das hohe C wohl auch im freihändigen Kopfstand erzielen, so leicht, mit solcher Sprezzatura bietet er dem . . . Volk seine vokalen Kunststücke."

Flórez legte ganz neue, bis dato unbekannte Qualitäten zu Tage . . . Jesús López-Cobos. . . an der Spitze des Orchesters des Teatro Comunale di Bologna und des von Lubomír Mátl einstudierten Prager Kammerchors erzeugte er ein gut Teil von jener Leichtigkeit, die Rossini kurz vor dessen Abschied von der Oper beflügelt haben dürfte.

So feierte das Publikum Juan Diego Flórez . . . er fühlte sich im Fummel pudelwohl und produzierte im presudo-gothischen Pilgerinnen-Lied wunderschöne Falsett-Töne.

Er ist der Gott des Belcanto: Alles, was Juan Diego Flórez mit seiner wunderbaren Tenorstimme singt, wird zu purem Gold. Auch in Rossinis launigem Zweiakter "Le Comte Ory" funkelt jeder Ton aus seiner Kehle vor Charme, Humor und selbstironischem Draufgängertum.

Wie sich innerhalb weniger Minuten aus dem braven Eremiten der lüsterne Graf musikalisch herauskristallisiert, das ist musikalisch einfach packend und interpretatorisch ebenso kongenial umgesetzt. Die Rolle des Ory scheint Juan Diego Flórez zudem wie auf den Leib geschneidert. Die schüchtern-brave "Betschwester" weiß er genauso überzeugend zu charakterisieren wie den feurigen Latin-Lover im Dauerpech, was nicht zuletzt daran liegt, dass die helle Stimmtextur alle diese Möglichkeiten auch akustisch glaubhaft werden lässt. Über Flórez' vokale Meriten braucht man hier eigentlich kaum mehr Worte zu verlieren: Im Rossini-Repertoire ist er derzeit wohl konkurrenzlos. Acuti vermag er mit einer Leichtigkeit zu produzieren, die sich schon fast unverschämt ausnimmt, und auch rasche Tempi oder rasante Fiorituren braucht er nicht zu fürchten.

Diese Oper ist sexy. Man braucht sich nur Juan Diego Flórez vorzustellen, wie er als Nonne verkleidet vor der Gräfin steht, der er eigentlich an die Wäsche wollte und vor der er nun genüsslich enttarnt wird: Das war ein Hauptspaß beim Rossini-Festival von Pesaro im letzten Sommer.

Dieser Tage erscheinen bei Universal zwei neue CDs des Shooting-Stars: "Große Tenor-Arien" . . ., wo er nicht nur -- elegant in der Phrasierung und sicher in den Acuti -- vorführt, was Belcanto unter besten Bedingungen sein kann; zugleich deutet er an, wohin er sich in Zukunft bewegen könnte: auf den frühen Verdi hin und auf französische Partien. Endlich ist wieder ein "Rigoletto"-Herzog in Sicht, der im lyrischen Fach verwurzelt ist und bei dem die Spitzentöne in "La donna è mobile" nicht zu Schmerzensschreien werden.

Die reich verzierte, mit vertrackten Sprüngen und atemberaubenden Spitzentönen ausgestattete Titelrolle nutzt der junge Peruaner Juan Diego Flórez zu einer brillanten Demonstration seines tenoralen Könnens.

Was für ein kostbares Timbre! Was für eine Noblesse in der sängerischen Gestaltung! Das sind tenorale Verführungskünste auf allerhöchstem Niveau: Spitzentöne wie ein Orgasmus nach dem andern; Kantilenen, die sich derart herzerweichend einschmeicheln, dass einem schon mal Tränen der Rührung kommen können; und dazu Witz und Komödiantentum, dass es eine Lust ist. Da kann man sich angesichts der ameisenfleißig betriebenen Suche der Schallplatten-Labels nach einem neuen Startenor nur fragen, weshalb es nicht längst zehn CDs von Florez gibt, der fast in jedem Ton an Alfredo Kraus, den vergessenen, erinnert.

Ein übersprudelnder Graf Ory und eine Recital-Platte mit Perspektiven: Der Tenor Juan Diego Flórez erfreut den Fan des verzierten Gesanges wiederum mit einer Tour de Brillance durch den Kristallpalast des Belcanto . . . Flórez, der Hexer des verzierten Gesanges, besticht in diesem Mitschnitt aus Pesaro wieder durch stupende Leichtigkeit und Intonationssicherheit. Die "dämonische" Farbe des Don Juan bringt er eher als Ironie ins Spiel, gibt der Figur, wo gefordert, auch Gefühligkeit und vor allem Charme.

"Jesús López-Cobos sculpte ses phrasés avec art. Juan Diego Flórez s'y révèle sublime (aigu étincelant, maîtrise des nuances expressives, charme, français parfait), Stefania Bonfadelli est belle (d'allure, de ligne)..."

Le "Comte" fait florès.
Le "Comte Ory", peu servi au disque, trouve en Juan Diego Flórez et ses partenaires sa meilleure interprétation.
Ajoutons que le français de Juan Diego Flórez, même s'il est teinté d'un rien d'accent, est parfaitement compréhensible. Stefania Bonfadelli est une séduisante Comtesse, à l'insolent suraigu et au médium corsé . . . et Alastair Miles, impeccable Gouverneur, complètent la distribution la plus heureuse que le disque ait offerte jusqu'ici . . . Jésus Lopez Cobos . . . est ici nettement plus inspiré, aidé il est vrai par les musiciens de Bologne, rompus aux subtilités de l'écriture instrumental de Rossini.
Le "Compte Ory" est peu et plutôt mal servi par le disque. Ici, dans le rôle-titre, Flórez fait miroiter toutes les ressources d'une voix d'exception, servie par une technique hors de pair. L'aigu est d'une déconcertante facilité, les vocalises sont admirablement maîtrisées. C'est un de nos "Evénements CD" du mois.

"Florez cantó sus notas imposibles y sus saltos acrobáticos de tonalidad con la seguridad y la naturaleza de siempre, a las antípodas de los esfuerzos sobrehumanos que hacen sus colegas norteamericanos para alcanzar las mismas notas. ... gracias a la magnífica voz de Florez fueron momentos descollantes de la velada el duo de Isolier y Ory del segundo acto, el dúo de la Condesa y Ory del segundo y sobre todo la acrobática aria del tenor 'Dans ce lieu solitaire'."

"Juan Diego Flórez se impuso luciendo su ejemplar belleza vocal, con un canto elegante, de fraseo variado y un alarde de reguladores que revelaron su dominio del instrumento. Interpoló incluso un Re sobreagudo en su aria del acto I "Que les destins prospères" y mostró una endiablada facilidad para la ornamentación en los números corales, que enloqueció al entusiasta público. ...
Le Comte Ory desbordó en chispa y gracia, como debe ser, gracias a los cantantes, la regiduría, la orquesta y la batuta, en una deseable conjunción que pocas veces se logra."

En este Comte Ory sobresale estelar el tenor Juan Diego Flórez, con esta voz bellísima, homogénea, que acaricia los oídos y dotada de ese gusto en el fraseo que le han hecho conquistar todo el mundo desde 1996. ... Flórez seduce sin casi proponérselo en los dúos, puesto que con ese maravilloso instrumento el esfuerzo parece mínimo. Técnica, emisión y estilo están tan bien ensamblados en su canto que se constituyen en un espléndido canon de tenor rossiniano, lejos de los los hipertécnicos colegas yanquis y con toda la redondez y belleza de los tenores «di grazia» hispanoamericanos que le precedieron. ... Los ejes de la dirección de López-Cobos son el cuidado en los detalles y pulso dramático general en la conducción de la ágil trama, logrando de cuerdas y maderas la transmisión de toda la chispa de Le conite Ory. Si añadimos el bien empastado coro de cámara de Praga ... esta grabación de DG se erige por méritos propios en un perfecto medio de gozar de esta maravilla lírica ... la presencia de Juan Diego Flórez, verdadero «deus ex machina» de esa nueva referencia, hace de esta versión un registro imprescindible, de ahí esa merecidísima R.

Sin la menor duda la estrella de la grabación es Flórez, protagonista impecable. Con su timbre untuoso, cuya límpida emisión le permite el canto legato que todos admiramos por pureza y disciplina y el ascenso repentino a un registro agudo que posee y domina con una habilidad de vértigo, deja de cada página un modelo a seguir, de dificil superación. Sus intenciones interpretativas amparadas en ese timbre de cálida y juvenil virilidad son, además, de una fina ironía y de tanta sagacidad de concepto que es así capaz de borrar del mapa de una vez por todas a los colegas discográficos que le han precedido.

"Juan Diego Florez (Ory) è un cantante agile e pirotecnico ma anche virile e sensuale e per di più è un attore comico irresistibile, sia come santo eremita che come dubbia pellegrina. Stefania Bonfadelli (la Contessa) è brava quanto bella: ed è bellissima, oltre che elegantissima, sia quando indossa un abito con strascico sia quando rimane in sottoveste. Marie-Ange Todorovitch sta benissimo nei panni del paggio Isolier, la cui ambiguità tra maschile e femminile è ulteriormente ingarbugliata da Pasqual. I due bassi sono Bruno Praticò, grasso e esuberante nel canto e nella recitazione, e Alistair Miles, asciutto e british, quindi perfettamente tagliati per interpretare rispettivamente Raimbaud, compagno di bagordi di Ory, e il rigido (almeno all'inizio) istitutore. Bravissima anche Marima De Liso (Ragonde).
La direzione di Jesús López-Cobos è spumeggiante ma equilibrata, con un'attenzione speciale per la ricchezza polifonica e la varietà di impasti dell'orchestra del Rossini francese."

Sono stati interpreti straordinari, quelli di Pesaro: Juan Diego Flórez e Stefania Bonfadelli, musicalità adamantina, colori e colorature perfette, controllo tecnico, presenza scenica di rara eleganza, recitativi finalmente declamati come si deve, per loro un trionfo assoluto.

Su tutti hanno spiccato il tenore Juan Diego Flórez e la soprano Stefania Bonfadelli, assolutamente padroni del ruolo e dello spirito rossiniano e, facendo propria ed esaltando la complessa scrittura vocale, autori di un modo di cantare Rossini che sicuramente sarà l'esempio da seguire per i loro successori.

... i due protagonisti Juan Diego Florez (Ory) e Stefania Bonfadelli (contessa) i quali entrambi, splendidi e giovani, regalano autentiche mirabilie virtuosistiche. Flórez - Bonfadelli, coppia vincente su tutta la linea.

Rossini dovrebbe poter ascoltare Juan Diego Flórez mentre dà alito vitale di canto al suo Conte Ory, con il corredo di un'ammiccante e gustosa recitazione. ... la vocalità paradisiaca "di grazia" che il giovane tenore, ormai gloria stabile del Rof, sa esprimere è di quelle che dischiudono i paradisi del virtuosismo dell'ugola: purezza timbrica, bellezza di linea melodica, lucentezza mirabile di acuti e sopracuti. Quando Flórez, nel magistrale trio prima del finale, attacca con ammaliante ispirazione "À la faveur de cette nuit obscure" l'impatto emotivo di ritorno è da procurato orgasmo musicale.

... si è srotolata la delizia musicale alla quale hanno contribuito l'ottima «Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna» diretta da Jesús López-Cobos, il sempre meraviglioso «Coro da Camera di Praga» diretto da Lubomír Mátl e una sfolgorante compagnia di canto che ha sostenuto, come vero cimento e senza mai sfigurare, la presenza di un fuoriclasse assoluto e travolgente come Juan Diego Flórez in Ory.

"Juan Diego Flórez, nel ruolo del Conte Ory, è sempre il massimo tenore rossiniano del nostro tempo: stupefacenti la nitidezza del suono e la precisione ornamentale, come l'identificazione col personaggio seduttivo: il canto come astrazione, librato nel senza tempo, mima il retrospettivo contralto "en travestì", prefigurando però la irriverente grazia operettistica. Di grande autorevolezza anche Marie-Ange Todorovitch, un Isolier di efficace intensità, dai registri molto omogenei."

Cominciamo dal dominatore della serata, Juan Diego Flórez, senza dubbio il migliore tenore rossiniano al mondo, che affrontata la sua improba parte risolvendone le difficoltà impossibili con quella «sprezzatura» che era un misto di temerarietà e tecnica, d'incoscienza e superba, vittoriosa musicale tenuta. Al suo fianco, in godibilissima guerra di soli vincitori, una Stefania Bonfadelli in stato di grazia, a suo agio tanto negli acuti stellari quanto nelle fioriture più intricate, in una parte altrettanto difficile di quella eponima. Completava come meglio non si poteva il trio dei protagonisti il delizioso paggio en travesti di Marie-Ange Todorovitch, mentre una coppia godibilissima scenicamente e musicalmente era quella formata da Bruno Praticò e Alastair Miles, in un cast ben completato da Marina de Liso e Rossella Bevacqua.

Di Juan Diego Florez, autentico fuoriclasse, si è già detto: voce strabiliante, con bellissimi armonici, è stato attore perfetto ed interprete ironico del Conte, inguaribile Don Giovanni, e forse anche di se stesso.

La compagnia di canto era di altissimo livello, e su tutti ha visto trionfare Juan Diego Flórez e Stefania Bonfadelli, Ory e la Contessa, i due "poli" del gioco. Flórez è oggi il tenore rossiniano per eccellenza, capace di unire al superbo controllo del fraseggio e dell'espressione (memorabili certe suadenti sottigliezze dinamiche) un'incisività e uno smalto senza ombre fin nella zona più alta della tessitura (e la sua parte in quest'opera è acutissima). Lo squillo è perentorio eppure sempre perfettamente timbrato, la coloratura smagliante di energia e precisione. Superba belcantista si è confermata anche la veronese Stefania Bonfadelli, che canta con naturalezza avvincente e con tenica impeccabile. L'estensione è ampia e omogenea, controllata ovunque con leggerezza inappuntabile e seducente, l'agilità nitidissima, adamantina, la tenuta sull'acuto e sul sovracuto indefettibile. Si aggiungano una presenza scenica di eleganza raffinata e di matura sensibilità e si avrà il quadro di un'interpretazione straordinaria per coscienza stilistica e perfezione dei mezzi vocali e musicali necessari a realizzarla. Attorno ai due dominatori della serata si sono mossi con precisa efficacia Bruno Praticò, "buffo" di estroversa e accattivante pienezza vocale, Alastair Miles, basso "nobile" di grande sostanza vocale e di ricca predisposizione al cantabile, Marie-Ange Todorovich, che ha dato al paggio Isolier (concorrente di Ory nelle velleità seduttive) morbidezza di tinta vocale, e duttilità inappuntabile nella linea di canto. Brillanti anche i comprimari, Marina De Liso e Rossella Bevacqua, e come sempre il coro da camera di Praga istruito da Lubomír Mátl. Dal podio ha guidato il tutto Jesús López-Cobos, concertatore di estrema precisione che ha messo in risalto i tesori strumentali dell'accompagnamento (precisa l'orchestra del Comunale di Bologna) e ha delineato una linea interpretativa di morbida dolcezza sul versante sentimentale, di trascinante vivacità in quello comico.
Interminabile, alla fine, la serie delle uscite a proscenio per tutti i protagonisti musicali dell'opera.

Flórez, vero divo del Rof da circa un lustro, svetta per tutta la durata dell'opera con vocalizzi virtuosistici, do di petto e sì naturali. Adele è una Stefania Bonfandelli spigliatissima sia nella recitazione sia nella vocalità; utilizza il registro molto ampio e la coloratura per essere tutta ammiccamenti. Il paggio Isolier è Marie-Ange Todorovitch, una vera e propria rivelazione di questa XXIV edizione del Rof . . .
Le Comte Ory
by Richard Osborne

There are few wittier or more finely honed comic operas than Rossini’s Le Comte Ory. Written for a hand-picked troupe of singers at the Paris Opéra, where it had its première in August 1828, it was one of several works Rossini placed before the French public after his move from Italy to Paris as a 32-year-old musical superstar in 1824. The contract Rossini signed with the French government was as demanding as it was lucrative. In addition to directing the Théâtre Italien, he was expected to produce a string of new works for the Opéra itself. Even for a man of Rossini’s talent (“the subtlest among the subtle, the most experienced among the experienced” as the English critic Henry Chorley put it at the time), it was a formidable undertaking. Though he spoke tolerable French, he needed to do further work on the language and the French declamatory style. He also needed time to train French singers in the art of Italian bel canto. Time, it turned out, was not on his side. The death of Louis XVIII in September 1824 landed him with a contract to write an entertainment for the coronation of the new king, Charles X. The result was Il viaggio a Reims, which had its première at a royal gala in Paris in June 1825. It is a remarkable piece: a spectacular court entertainment that is also a sophisticated and occasionally irreverent reworking of Mme de Staël’s Romantic novel, memoir and travelogue Corinne, ou l’Italie (1807). Aware that coronations are not an everyday occurrence, Rossini withdrew Il viaggio a Reims after four performances, carefully filing the music away for future use. After this unexpected excitement, Rossini reverted to Plan A, steeping himself in the ways of French theatre by adapting for the Paris Opéra two of the most powerful opere serie he had written for the San Carlo company in Naples. Both were, in effect, trial runs for Guillaume Tell, the new grand opera he was planning to set before the Parisian public. A year or more before the completion of Tell, Le Comte Ory swam into view: a joy to Rossini, who had found an ideal medium for re-channelling the best music of Il viaggio a Reims, and to the opera-going public who craved, above all else, a new comic opera from Rossini. The legend of Count Ory, a prototype Don Juan said to have lived in Touraine around the time of the Crusades, had resurfaced in the 1780s as part of a Europe-wide revival of interest in medieval balladry. Collected and arranged by Pierre-Antoine de la Place, it relates how Ory and his men laid siege to a convent. Nine months later, we are told, “each nun gave birth to a little knight”. In 1816, the 25-year old Eugène Scribe and his associate Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson staged a one act vaudeville on the subject at Paris’s Théâtre du Vaudeville. In Scribe’s version, the Crusaders return before Ory and his men can have their wicked way. Was he being subversive or merely decorous? Either way, Rossini – who relished subversion and decorum in more or less equal measure – was much taken with the play, not least by the downbeat end. One of the jokes in Il viaggio a Reims is that the pilgrims never actually reach Reims. Scribe’s vaudeville was too short as it stood. By using the vaudeville as the second act, and conjuring a first act out of a reference to an earlier exploit in which Ory pursues his amorous activities disguised as a hermit, Rossini was able to create a work comparable in length and scale to Il barbiere di Siviglia. Such was his sleight of hand, this Gallic jeu d’esprit is sturdily built, richly orchestrated and hugely ambitious vocally. It works best in a small theatre; yet it was more than adequate to the demands of the Opéra’s 1900-seat Salle Le Peletier. To what extent it met the Opéra’s expectations in terms of “tone” and moral seriousness is another matter. It says much about Rossini’s status within Parisian musical and political circles that a subject which would normally have been presented as a comic opera with spoken dialogue in a small specialist theatre such as the Feydeau was allowed through the sacred portals of the Académie Royale de Musique, as the Opéra was formally known. The paucity of correspondence about Le Comte Ory with the relevant ministry suggests that Rossini largely circumvented the official procedures. Rossini was a master adapter, a skill rooted in his belief in the essentially “expressive” (as opposed to “imitative”) power of music and its ability to take on new colours in new contexts. In the case of Le Comte Ory, four of the six numbers in Act I are based on music in Il viaggio a Reims. In Act II only two of the seven numbers are so derived. It was an arrangement that gave Rossini an unusual degree of control over the composition process. While the librettists were working against the clock to provide a new Act I for music that was already largely extant, Rossini was delighting in the original vaudeville, creating a second act that takes the music in new and unexpected directions. Significantly, the one new number in Act I – the duet “Une dame de haut parage”, in which the page Isolier inadvertently reveals to Ory his plan to pursue the Countess disguised as a pilgrim – has a specific purpose in Rossini’s overall strategy. At Ory’s words “Noble page du Comte Ory”, Rossini quotes the tune used by de la Place in his 1785 ballad. This, in turn, is fed into two other strategically important new pieces: the opera’s enigmatic orchestral prelude (which so upset an otherwise admiring Berlioz) and the celebrated Act II Trio, the linchpin of the entire work. No wonder Scribe took umbrage and asked for his name to be removed from the libretto for the opening night. Not only had Rossini called in a number of other people to advise – Luigi Balocchi, the librettist of Il viaggio a Reims, Adolphe Nourrit, the first Ory – he himself was an interventionist where libretti were concerned, vastly experienced in bending texts to his own wit and will. The borrowings are by no means simple scissors-and-paste jobs. The Tutor’s aria “Veiller sans cesse” has a new opening section which reflects a character who is sterner, less sentimental than the English Milord in Il viaggio a Reims. Other modifications are subtler and more substantial. At the end of Act I, when Ory is unmasked by his old tutor, Rossini uses a slimmed-down version of one of the big show-stopping moments in Il viaggio a Reims, the “Gran pezzo concertato” for 14 unaccompanied voices. This is music in the Italian church style. Using an a cappella church ensemble to celebrate, not some Christian rite, but the unfrocking of a bogus hermit is rather a nice “in” joke. The music of Raimbaud’s Act II aria “Dans ce lieu solitaire” was written for a character in Il viaggio a Reims who is a fanatic antiquarian, Don Profondo. A man with a passion for classifying things, he uses the aria to anatomize the peoples of Europe. It is all vaguely amusing (Englishmen make voyages round the globe, write marine treatises, drink China tea and interest themselves in opium and air-pistols) but there is no real dramatic context. In Le Comte Ory, it is very different. Raimbaud narrates the story of his exploration of the wine cellars as though it is a military expedition: the wines arrayed in front of him are like provinces and countries waiting to be conquered. Le Comte Ory is littered with military images, verbal and musical. Rossini and his librettists clearly took great delight in drawing on the age-old image of love as an act of conquest, albeit with a light touch and a certain wry detachment. The opera culminates in the glorious Act II Trio. Rarely, if ever, did Rossini write more sensuously for winds and muted strings. The sound worlds of Mozart and Berlioz are here celebrated and anticipated in music which is nonetheless quintessential Rossini. Nor is the Trio merely ravishment for the ear. Ory’s ill-fated courtship of the Countess and Isolier is shaped in a very Rossinian way; while the Trio has a delightfully improvised feel about it, the forms are faultlessly deployed. Like a number of comedians of genius, Rossini had a depressive aspect to his nature; he knew the shadows as well as the sunlight. There are echoes of that in this marvellous Trio. There are no buffo stereotypes in Le Comte Ory. Rossini’s writing for Ory has floridity, elegance and grace, plus a certain feminine allure that gives him a decadent, slightly dangerous air. His prankish high Cs and sudden unexpected rises of an octave or major sixth suggest an aspiring quality that is wittily contradicted in the cabaletta of the Act II Trio, where a rise to the tonic A and an ignominious descent by semitones perfectly conveys the sense of a man whose fortunes are sinking fast. The message is clear enough. Ory is not Don Giovanni and is not going to hell. For the time being, however, his number is up: a case of exiting via the back door rather than the trap-door. Politely received by the Parisians, Le Comte Ory became something of a connoisseur’s piece in France and in England, where Chorley sang its praises. (“There is not a bad melody, there is not an ugly bar in Le Comte Ory.”) In Italy is was more or less off limits: its contents offended the Church, its libretto took badly to translation. Like Mozart’s Così fan tutte, it also fell foul of prigs and bores who thought the music exquisite but the story cynical and immoral. Since the 1950s, when it enjoyed a famous revival at the Glyndebourne Festival under the direction of Vittorio Gui, Le Comte Ory has fallen victim to a new breed of philistines: stage directors who, lacking all discretion, are intent on finding ever more bizarre ways of treating the opera as “a two-and-a-quarter-hour erection” (critic Paul Hume’s curious formulation). The 2003 Pesaro Festival production, directed by the Catalan artist Lluís Pasqual, was colourful rather than crude, the action taken out of period and turned into an elaborate parlour game. The cast, led by Juan Diego Flórez, was distinguished, the conducting, by veteran Rossinian Jesús López-Cobos, first-rate, the best since Gui. Some critics relished Pasqual’s production, others were appalled by it. Hearing it on disc, happily, we can conjure up our own pictures of the Castle of Formoutiers, the libidinous hermit at its gate, its gracious châtelaine, and all those roistering nuns.

Synopsis

The action is set in the Castle of Formoutiers in rural France around the year 1200. The Count of Formoutiers and his men have departed on a crusade to the Holy Land, leaving behind his sister, the chaste and charitably-minded Countess Adèle, attended by her companion Ragonde and ladies-in-waiting. One nobleman who has not left for Palestine is the young Count Ory. Determined to pay court to the Countess, he has slipped his tutor’s leash, disguised himself as a hermit and taken up residence outside the castle gates, from where he dispenses advice on affairs of the heart in exchange for gifts of fruit and vintage wine.

ACT I
Ory’s henchman Raimbaud has difficulty controlling the high-spirited throng of village girls and peasants intent on vying for the hermit’s attention. Ragonde complains about them enjoying themselves when her mistress is so unhappy and announces that the Countess, too, wishes to consult the hermit. Emerging from his lair, Ory blesses the crowd and promises to satisfy all their desires, including finding husbands for the girls. Though the ladies of the castle have vowed to forswear the company of men during the crusaders’ absence, Ragonde joins the queue of supplicants. The hermit agrees to see her mistress, even though he is more interested in the girls he hopes to entertain in his hermitage. Ory’s young page, Isolier, a passionate admirer of Countess Adèle, arrives at the castle with Ory’s somewhat disgruntled Tutor, having persuaded him that he might find his missing charge thereabouts. After a brief discussion with the locals and an informed guess as to the hermit’s true identity, the Tutor leaves to summon reinforcements. Isolier, on the other hand, is completely taken in by the hermit, so much so that he reveals to him his plan to pursue the Countess by entering the castle disguised as a pilgrim nun. The hermit agrees to help him but secretly resolves to use the plan for his own ends.

When the Countess arrives complaining of her melancholy, the hermit prescribes a love affair. This advice so shocks her, she immediately accepts it and proceeds to declare her feelings for Isolier. The hermit warns her of the danger of getting involved with the page of the libertine Ory. His advances to the Countess are progressing more than satisfactorily when his cover is blown by the appearance of his Tutor – to the shame and horror of the Countess and of Isolier. Hearing that the crusaders are due to return in two days, Ory determines to stage a fresh assault on the castle before they arrive.

ACT II
The Countess and her women, still angered by Ory’s dissimulation, try to calm their nerves by sewing. As a storm breaks, cries are heard from a band of pilgrim women – in reality, Ory and his men disguised as nuns – outside the castle. The “pilgrims” claim that Count Ory is pursuing them and beg for protection; the Countess gives them shelter. One of their number wishes to express gratitude to the Countess directly: it is Ory who, when left alone with her, is barely able to contain his ardour. The Countess orders milk and fruit to be served to her “pilgrim” guests and then goes out. Raimbaud, who has lost no time in repairing to the castle’s cellar, arrives with bottles of wine to augment the frugal meal. The carousing gives way to pious chanting the instant anyone comes within earshot.

Isolier has news that the crusaders will arrive home at midnight. When Ragonde offers to inform the “virtuous souls” the Countess is harbouring in the castle, the page, wise now to his master’s ways, sees through the subterfuge. Determined to ingratiate himself with the Countess, he lays a trap for Ory: just as the Count is about to pay the Countess an unexpected nocturnal visit, Isolier extinguishes the lamp in her bedchamber, wraps himself in her veil and motions her to hide behind him on the settee. Misled by the darkness and the sound of the Countess’s voice, Ory mistakenly makes advances to Isolier. Trumpet calls announce the return of the crusaders. Isolier reveals himself and helps the Countess effect an escape for the defeated Ory, after which the crusaders are greeted with a hastily arranged hymn of praise.