“Trove Thursday” previously celebrated New Year’s Eve with Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Die Fledermaus, but we close 2018 with something very different but equally sparkling: Le Comte Ory. 

The opera is performed in French, but with an enviable nearly all-Italian cast of prime-time Rossini specialists: Mariella Devia, Cecila Bartoli, Ewa Podles, William Matteuzzi, Claudio Desderi and Pietro Spagnoli.

Ory must be one of opera’s finest recycle jobs: in 1828 Rossini repurposed for the Paris Opéra much of Il Viaggio à Reims an extravagant pièce d’occasion written three years earlier for the coronation of Charles X.

Many of Viaggio’s bravura arias and ensembles found their way into Ory but the latter’s most celebrated number, the deliciously seductive and erotically ambiguous trio “A la faveur de cette nuit obscure,” was entirely new.

For a mezzo who has concentrated almost exclusively on operas of the 18th and early 19th centuries, Bartoli has for years gone out of her way to avoid appearing in pants.

Other than a few Cherubinos in the early days, Isolier was one of her very few trouser roles until until a recent Salzburg Ariodante which in Christof Loy’s gender-bending production still allowed her sometimes to appear in a dress but with a beard!

The master from Pesaro has always played an important part in Bartoli’s career. Early on there were lots of Rosinas but just one run each of La Scala di Seta and La Pietra del Paragone.

In the late 1980s La Cenerentola however arrived and has remained a constant in her repertoire off and on for decades; Fiorilla in Il Turco in Italia was a brief phenomenon, and later came Desdemona in Otello.

In the past few years she took on Elena in La donna del Lago for just a single concert performance in Salzburg where in May she performed on stage her first-ever Isabella in L’Italiana in Algeri.

Although Devia and Podles were renowned in Rossini, neither sang any of the composer’s operas during their briefish Met careers, but today’s three leading men did. Each had just one engagement at the house in a single role—Matteuzzi in 1988 and Desderi in 1995 in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Spagnoli two years ago as Cenerentola’s Dandini.

Devia and Bartoli never starred in Ory’s counterpart Viaggio, but Podles sang Melibea and Desderi Don Profondo. Spagnoli has performed both Profondo and the flashy star bass role of Lord Sidney and while the fearless Matteuzzi didn’t appear in the modern premiere in Pesaro, he later sang a daredevil Libenskof opposite Lucia Valentini-Terrani with the Rossini maestro par excellance Claudio Abbado.

Today’s La Scala performance was the house’s first in nearly a quarter century. Its predecessor in 1958 also fielded a pretty impressive cast (singing in Italian): Graziella Sciutti, Teresa Berganza, Fiorenza Cossotto, Juan Oncina, Rolando Panerai and Franco Calabrese.

 Rossini: Le Comte Ory

La Scala
18 January 1991
In-house recording

La Comtesse Adèle — Mariella Devia
Isolier — Cecilia Bartoli
Ragonde — Ewa Podles
Alice — Marilena Laurenza
Le Comte Ory — William Matteuzzi
Raimbaud — Claudio Desderi
Gouverneur — Pietro Spagnoli

Conductor — Bruno Campanella

Comte Ory can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

This is the final installment of a four-part salute to the 150th anniversary of the death of Rossini; it was preceded by Semiramide, La Pietra del Paragone and Ermione.

Another serious Rossini work arrives in February.

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