"THE ENCHANTYED ISLAND"
ROSSINI: Le Comte Ory
Here is another Tosca, and it is among the very best. This Royal Opera House production by Jonathan Kent is what it should be—Puccini's masterpiece without any updating, gimmicks and nonsense so many of today's directors—and opera houses—sometimes support. Sets are beautiful and appropriate, particularly the final act. And the cast is just about perfect. Soprano Angela Gheorghiu is still in fine vocal form and dramatically, if a bit over the top, convincing. Her performance here overall is more impressive than her Covent Garden video almost a decade ago when her Cavaradossi was her husband, Roberto Alagna. Here she has the luxury of Jonas Kaufmann, who is in spectacular form. He has everything both vocally and physically. Byrn Terfel is a sarcastic, sadistic Scarpia and he, too, is at his best. Pappano and the Royal Opera House Chorus and Orchestra are in top form, and video/audio engineers have done their work very well. The bonus features Pappagno's synopsis of the plot with excerpts from the performance. The only negative feature is the DVD booklet doesn't include a listing of tracks—and it is unfortunate that Kaufmann's thrilling cries of Vittoria!! don't have a separate track. If you love Tosca, don't miss this remarkable DVD. .
The Enchanted Island was given ten performances at the Met 2011-2012 and was a great hit. It really isn't an opera, but a collection of music by leading composers of the Baroque era, primarily Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau and Purcell. The production, based on Shakespeare's The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream, was created by Jeremy Sams. When the production was in planning stages, several of the leading singers suggested favored arias they would like to have included, often obscure arias unknown to audiences. A spot was made for Plácido Domingo, who appears as Neptune, doubtless to increase box-office potential., and the famed tenor carries it off with in comedic style. The set is simple and gorgeous, beautifully lit, with projected images changing the scenes. Everyone seems to be having a great time, and every singer is stunning vocally. It is sung in English, and enunciation is so exact that most viewers will not have to refer to subtitles which are available in five languages. Conductor William Christie, an expert in baroque music, makes no attempt whatever at period performance—the fine Met orchestra is full-bodied and rich. This is indeed an "Enchanted Island," but it is a LONG one as well—almost three hours of baroque beauty. I imagine most viewers will wish to experience it in segments. As with the Tosca mentioned above, the DVD booklet does not contain a listing of tracks (there are 31) ,performers and tiumings.This uinformation (but not timings) is available via the on-screen menu, but even there they are not numbered. The 13 minute bonus features Deborah Voight talking with leading singers and production staff, all of which were part of the Met HD telecast.
Rossini's comic opera Le Comte Ory was his penultimate, followed by William Tell. He borrowed some music from Il viaggio a Reims written three years earlier. The premiere was at the Paris Opera in 1828 but for whatever reason, Comte Ory never became one of the composer's more successful operas. The opera takes place in Touraine about 1200, and tells of the comically licentious Count Ory's attempts to seduce women whose husbands are away on the Crusades. The primary object of his desire is the countess Adele. With assistance from his pageboy Isolier, Ory uses two disguises, first a hermit, the second a nun (Sister Colette). The opera is unusual in that it has a very brief overture, about three minutes in length, that quickly sets the stage for the action. Comte Ory is a delightful comedy filled with terrific arias and scenes, plus the expected Rossinian brilliant ensembles. It wasn't given at the Met until April 2011 at which time the performance on this DVD was taped as part of the Met's live telecast series. This production was directed by Tony award-winning Broadway director Bartlett Sher, who presents the opera as a play within a play, an approach that works very well. Michael Yeargan's sets and Catherine Zuber's costumes are stunning, and Gary Halvorson's direction keeps things moving at a quick pace. The cast could not be bettered, headed by today's leading exponent of Rossini tenor roles, Juan Diego Flóres, perfect both vocally and what a comedian he is! He is well matched by Diana Damrau's brilliant Adele and Joyce DiDonato in the trouser role of Isolier Mention also should be made of Stéphane Degout as Ory's friend Raimbaud. Maurizio Benini's conducts the superb Met and he obviously is an expert in what Rossini is all about. Subtitles are available in French, German, Spanish and Italian as well as English. Video is excellent, as is audio. Renée Fleming is the host, and included are several interviews with the cast— including an excited Flórez, who just the night before had become a father. This is a splendid issue in every way - don't miss it!
R.E.B. (February 2013)