ROSSINI: Le Comte Ory
It was a pleasant surprise to view this Parsifal from Bayreuth in July 1998. A rather traditional production, it shows respect and reverence to the composer and his music, totally free from the abominable productions of the past few years at Bayreuth. The latter debacles are the result of decisions made by Wolfgang Wagner's daughters, Eva Wagner Pasquier and Katharina Wagner. Wolfgang was the son of Siegfried Wagner, who was the grandson of the composer. Wolfgang and his brother Wieland;Wolfgang directed the Festival for some years. Some of their productions were criticized, but nothing to compare with the hostility in the operatic world to productions by the two sisters. Wolfgang directed this Parsifal, and he has a superb cast. Giuseppe Sinopoli was a favorite at Bayreuth, and his conducting of Parsifal was universally praised. Lighting is beautifully accomplished and the scene with the flower maidens is lovely indeed. Video director Horant H. Hohlfeld usually has the camera in the right place, and the audio captures the rich acoustics of the venue. Surely one of the finest Parsifals on DVD.
Rossini's comic opera Le Comte Ory was a great hit at the Met when it received its first performance in the house in 2011. This was an all-star occasion with a cast headed by Juan Diago Floréz, Joyce Di Donato and Diana Damreau, issued on DVD (REVIEW). Now we have another superb recording this one of particular interest as it features he amazing Mexican tenor Javier Camarena in the title role, and Cecilia Bartoli as the Countess. Camara has captivated audiences in Vienna, Salzburg, Paris and Zurich with his remarkable coloratura ability; this past season he brought down the house during a Met performance of La Cenerentola, giving an encore after his spectacular vocal acrobatics—you can see him on YouTube. He is in top form here, and a fine comic actor as well, although Juan Diago Floréz has the plus of his movie-star features. And Cecilia Bartoli her mllions of notes with the greatest of ease—what a pleasure it is to see these two artists in their duets and their many solos. Sets and costumes by Christian Fenouillat are simple but effective and the two directors, Moshe Leiser and Patrick Caurier, keep things moving nicely. Conductor Muhal Tang misses none of the humor of the score, with a spirited chorus and orchestra. Video and audio are excellent. A charming issue, worth owning even if you already have the Met version.
This production of Salome is the concept of Gabriele Lavia presented at Teatro Communale di Bologna in 2010, updating the drama to Strauss's time. Sets are by Alessondro Coniera, costumes by Andrea Viotti, choreography by Sara Di Solvo. There are soldiers with helmest and spears, Herod wearing a suit, Herodias an elaborate gown, and Salome wears a flimsy white ballroom dress. The set is simple and intriguing. There is a huge crack in the floor of the palace, and it is from this that Jochanaan appears, scantily clad, in a cage pulled upward by chains. There is a moon that changes shape and position, and for whatever unexplained reason there is a large magnifying glass behind which characters sometimes move. In the final scene Jochanaan's headless body is raised from the "cistern" by chains on his ankles, and his severed head slowly rises—but it is huge, perhaps 10 ft. wide, 5 ft. high. It is an alabaster sculpture and during much of the final scene Salome is lying on it. The effect is dramatic indeed! The title role is sung by Swedish soprano Erika Sunneardh (b. 1966). She graduated from the Manhattan School of Music in 1992 and made her operatic debut in 2004 in a Malmo production of Turandot. She was a last-minute substitute for Karita Mattila as Leonore in Fidelio for a highly acclaimed Met broadcast in April 2006. She also appeared in several performances of Turanot including a broadcast. Sunneardh has appeared in a number of other major opera houses. She is attractive and slim, physically perfect for the role of Salome. Her "Dance of the Seven Veils" is among the best you will ever see, and her athleticism is remarkable, ending with her standing nude before Herod. It is unfortunate that her voice isn't more controlled—there is an unevenness of production that detracts considerably. Dramatically she is first-rate, but it is obvious by the final scene she is tiring. The remainder of the cast is excellent, the orchestra plays well, video and audio are first-rate. This surely is among the better Salome's recorded—see our feature on all recordings of this opera (FEATURE).
R.E.B. (July 2014)