Le comte Ory: Rossini's comic masterpiece
Le comte Ory is one of Gioachino Rossini’s late operas written in 1828, a comic masterpiece, a mixture of risky situation and indelicate suggestion, mediaeval chivalry and musical elegance. The French libretto was by Eugène Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson adapted from a comedy they had first written in 1817. Six pieces of the music originates from Rossini’s own opera Il viaggio a Reims a pièce d’occasion written three years earlier for the coronation of Charles X. The Gran pezzo concertato a 14 voci, a bel canto ensemble showpiece for four baritones, four basses, three soprani, two tenors and a contralto, became the Act I finale, one of Rossini’s most exhilarating.
Le comte Ory is Rossini’s only French comic opera, first performed on 20 August 1828 at the Salle Le Peletier by the Paris Opera and was one of the mainstays of the Parisian stage in the nineteenth century. It was given in London at the King's Theatre in Italian on 28 February 1829, in New Orleans at the Théâtre d'Orléans on 16 December 1830 and in New York on 22 August 1831.
The humorous, even farcical story of this opera has as its protagonist the Comte Ory who, similarly to Don Giovanni, is a creature of pure animal appetite and impulse. He dedicates to seducing women and chooses Countess Adèle as his new prey. The Countess is a restrained moralist who has taken a vow of chastity and she is left home alone after her brother and his men head off to battle the Crusades. Count Ory takes advantage of the situation to try and win her over and disguises himself as a hermit with the intent of offering love advice. His page Isolier admits his love for the Countess and reveals a plan to sneak into the castle.
The Countess seeks out the hermit’s advice and upon being told to open her heart to love, she falls for Isolier. Ory’s identity is revealed when he tries to warn the Countess against Isolier. His plan failed, Ory and his men gain entrance into the castle disguised as female pilgrims. Ory breaks into Adèle’s bedroom at night but finds himself wooing Isolier instead since he cannot see in the darkness. The men return from the Crusades, Isolier reveals himself and helps Ory escape the castle. The work receives numerous productions at opera houses around the world. In April 2011 the opera received its premiere performances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The cast included Juan Diego Flórez, Diana Damrau and Joyce DiDonato, singing in a new production directed by Bartlett Sher. This production was broadcast on Metropolitan Opera Live in HD on April 9, 2011. It was revived in 2013 with Flórez repeating his role, but with a different supporting cast.