So, by a perhaps odd coincidence, various singers from Kathy Domoney’s stable are involved in productions of Rossini’s Le comte Ory at assorted Canadian houses in the near future; either as principals or understudies, so why not pull together some sort of performance of the work? That happened last night at Trinity St. Paul’s in a “narrated production” by François Racine. I had some ida what to expect as I had talked to François earlier in the week.
I liked what he did with the work. There was actually more in the way of costumes and props than I expected. The “three in a bed scene” was cleverly staged vertically so the audience got some sense of what was going on. It was also quite short. I didn’t actually have a watch on it but I think the two acts came in at around forty minutes each. Even fully staged, Le comte Ory is a bit of fluff that can outstay its welcome so that was smart.
The performances were perhaps better than we had a right to expect given the minimal rehearsal time and the singers singing off stands. It’s a typical Rossini comedy and a lot of the action needs Brian Rix farce like timing to be fully effective. There are also a couple of those quick fire Rossini ensembles which really have to be taken fast to work. Neither of those things can be achieved without rehearsal time. The solo and choral singing though was often very good. Caitlin Wood is a very engaging Adèle and Dion Mazerolle sang strongly as Le Gouverneur. Clarence Frazer made the most of his one aria as Raimbaud and Maria Soulis as Ragonde was a good complement to Adèle. The small chorus was a hoot too. It was worth going just to see Andrew Adridge as a nun.
Which brings us to Asitha Tennekoon’s Ory and Marjorie Maltais’ Isolier. These two carry the burden of the comedy and therefore have to overcome the most of the limitations of the approach. They both sang well and threw themselves into it but that hard to define spark wasn’t quite there. It didn’t help that something odd appeared to be going on with the acoustics that didn’t flatter Asitha’s voice in particular. I’ve heard a lot of voice/piano recitals in that hall and I’ve heard Asitha sing in houses large and small but I’ve never heard his voice sound as “dry and buzzy” as it did last night. It was the same with the piano. I don’t think there was anything wrong at all with Nicole Bellamy’s playing but it too sounded “dry and buzzy”. I wonder whether the fact that there was nobody in the balcony was the issue? It’s all wood up there and an absence of sound absorbing flesh could make a big difference.
Despite reservations it was an enjoyable evening and surprisingly successful given the limitations. But it did rather point up how hard it is to bring off a Rossini comedy; especially one that doesn’t have as many memorable tunes as, say, Barber.