Rossini’s Le Comte Ory is extremely silly. It’s a crazy, gender bending romp with no real substance but plenty of rather crude humour and good tunes. I suspect it’s beyond the wit of any director than do more than make sure the mad cap elements are mad enough but one is, I suppose, bound to try. For their 2012 production in Zürich, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier chose to set the piece in immediately post war France. It works well enough and allows for a few visual gags but it doesn’t really add much to the piece. Nor, though, does it detract.
The music making has a couple of aspects that are interesting. The first is the disk’s main attraction, Cecila Bartoli as the Countess Roèle. It’s a good role for her. There’s plenty of room for crazy coloratura and she’s a pretty good comedienne. The second attraction is that is one of very few opera videos with period instruments in the pit. Here it’s that wonderful band La Scintilla, basically a subset of the Zürich house orchestra playing period/reproduction instruments and well directed by Muhai Tang.
The trouble with this recording is that the rest of the cast, while perfectly competent, don’t have the same star quality as Bartoli. Nor can they match the incredible ensemble the Met assembled a year earlier for this piece. Javier Camarena is adequate in the title role but just isn’t as funny or as vocally mad as Juan-Diego Flórez and, while Rebeca Olvera is probably more what Rossini had in mind for Isolier, she’s not Joyce DiDinato. Olvera is much more convincing as a rather gauche teenage boy but just not nearly as sexy as Joyce. It’s pretty much the same through the supporting cast.
Olivier Simonnet’s video direction is undistracting and it’s backed up by a decent picture and well balanced DTS surround sound. There are no extras on the disk and documentation. The booklet contains a historical essay and a note on the performing edition as well as a synopsis and full track listing. Subtitles are English, French, German and Korean.
I guess this is worth seeing if you want to see Bartoli in this role or you have a deep desire to hear Rossini on period instruments. Otherwise I think one is better off with the Met version. Bartlett Sher’s production is mildly irritating but the quality of singing and the chemistry between the three principals is well nigh unbeatable.