A French Comte Ory

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.

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Carmen at Bregenz

One has to recalibrate when reviewing productions from the lake stage at Bregenz.  The challenges for set designer and director are very different from designing/directing in a conventional theatre.  There’s an interview with Es Devlin on the disk of the 2017 production of Bizet’s Carmen that explains the issues very well but broadly it’s a question of creating a single, giant set that can be used throughout the opera and which makes a statement that integrates the work with the environment of the Bodensee.  The challenge for the director, as well, as the usual ones, is to communicate the characters and story when they are rather dwarfed by the setting.  S/he also has to figure out how to fit the lake itself into the story.  I think Devlin and director, Kasper Holten, manage this remarkably well.

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