For the first time this season, the Metropolitan Opera House in New York presented the new staging of Gioachino Rossini’s Le Comte Ory. The audience was unwilling to gamble on a combination of new production and a debut of Pretty Yende in the leading female role. However, those who braved the cold weather and the uncertainty of not knowing if she was going to be a balanced partner to the remarkable Juan Diego Florez were in for an exceptional treat.
Le Comte Ory is the final operatic comedy of Rossini and his penultimate opera that premiered at the Paris Opera in 1828. While the piece is not meant to be a biographical sketch, the plot of the opera is loosely based on the legendary womanizer from the Middle Ages, Count Ory. The opera, however, is set at a time of the Crusades and the womanizing Count Ory (Juan Diego Florez) is trying to find affection from every woman in a village without men, all of whom have gone off to fight for the Holy Land. He is concealed as the all healing and knowing hermit who helps all deal with melancholy. Shortly after, the Count’s page, Isolier (Karine Deshayes), arrives looking to meet the hermit, confides in the healer that he is in love with the countess who has chosen to imprison herself and her court in the castle until the return of their men. The page’s plan is to disguise himself as a pilgrim, a plan that the hermit approves of and secretly decides to steal. The countess (Pretty Yende) is a kind and gentle soul who wishes to remain honest to her ideals and her men. However, her fate has a different plan in store for her and her ladies in waiting. The romantic comedy that ensues is the very definition of life: something that happens when you make other plans. However, the author is quick to remind the audience of the virtue of true love and marriage.
Maurizio Benini led the orchestra, the chorus, and the leading voices with wonderful grace and decisiveness. He did not take any unnecessary or necessary pauses and allowed the music to flow and forced the applause to build up for the very end. Juan Domingo Florez was, as always, extraordinary. The range and depth of his voice were perfectly suited for the role, the score, and the performing space. He gently showed his gift of music being both forceful and gentle as the music demanded frequent fluctuations.
Karine Deshayes was wonderful in the supporting role to both Juan Diego Florez and the incredible Pretty Yende. Her debut in this role almost lasted just the first 2 minutes, as shortly following her walk across the stage during the overture, she tripped and fell stage left. Her departure would have robbed all those in the audience of the performance that was to come. She matched Florez note for note and took the audience to new heights in her solos, reminding me of the pre-pregnancy Anna Netrebko. Susanne Resmark, Nathan Gunn, and Nicola Ulivieri delivered solid performances for a complete work of art.
In the interval, one of fellow opera lovers was quick to point out that this was the B cast, with Nino Machaidze listed in the leading female role in the A cast. The only B that comes to mind following tonight’s premiere is a very loud and out of control BRAVO!
The show is a must see – worth every penny -- and will run through February 5.
For full details check out the Met's website and ticket options.