Rossini’s Le Comte Ory was written for Paris so it’s appropriate that there should be a recording from the Opéra Comique. It’s directed by Denis Podalydès who chooses to set it around the time of the opera’s creation (1828) with the “crusader” element replaced by the French conquest of Algeria. The sets and costumes are pretty conventional with a heavy emphasis on religious symbolism; some of it rather awry. There’s also a heavy element of sexual frustration. The comedy is all very much there but it’s not too slapstick and there’s none of the annoying cheesiness of Bartlett Sher’s New York version. It all feels very French.
The singing and acting are of a very high quality. Julie Fuchs, as the Comtesse Adèle, has terrific coloratura and is the living embodiment of sexual frustration. Philippe Talbot as Comte Ory is first seen in a false nose and a fat suit as the “hermit”. He’s Fuchs’ match as a singer and quite hilarious, especially as the leader of the “female pilgrims”. Gaëlle Arquez is a bit more restrained as Isolier but it’s a convincing portrayal. The “three in a bed” scene is the funniest and sexiest version I’ve seen of it.
The supporting cast is excellent too. Eve-Maud Hubeaux manages a “butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth” Ragonde, Patrick Bollaire is a suitably lugubrious Gouverneur and there are a couple of good cameos from Jean-Sébastian Bou as Raimbaud. Jodie Devos is a vocally and physically attractive Alice. The chorus, Les Éléments, is excellent and sings, dances and moves extremely well. The drunk knight/pilgrims are very good and there’s some excellent work from the ladies in the opening scenes (with rather more leg and shoulder on display than one might expect from the setting). The Orchestre des Champs Elysées is good and Louis Langrée is brisk and keeps things together nicely.
Video direction is by Vincent Massip and it represents the production well. The picture and sound (DTS-HD-MA and LPCM 2.0) on Blu-ray are standard Blu-ray quality. There aren’t any extras on the disk but it’s not really a production to need them. The booklet has a synopsis, a short essay and a track listing. Subtitle options are English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Korean.
The main competition for this is the Met recording which is now available on Blu-ray (and cheap). I think I prefer this new one. It’s as well sung and funnier in a subtler, very French way.