I guess there are two ways one can approach “Gothic Horror”. Either one takes its conventions at face value as in, say, Bram Stoker’s Dracula or one treats it tongue in cheek; Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey of the BBC Dracula from earlier this year. It’s no surprise that in La nonne sanglante Gounod very much takes things at face value and, equally unsurprisingly chucks in a fair amount of Catholic religiosity complete with the unlikeliest characters wandering off to Heaven at the end.
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.
That headline is pretty typical of the English translation of the libretto of Schoenberg’s Aron und Moses. “Holy is genital power” is another gem. The whole thing is basically an extended debate about the nature of God with Moses arguing for an extreme degree of abstraction and Aron championing a more populist version that “the people” can relate to. There are ideas in there that could probably be staged quite spectacularly, such as the Golden Calf scenes and a spot of human sacrifice. There’s even a fairly decent opportunity for an orgy. In their 1975 film Daniele Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub reject any opportunity for visual excess or even representation almost as rigidly as Moses himself.