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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Reynaldo Hahn’s 1923 piece Ciboulette is considered one of the last great French operettas.  It’s certainly tuneful and highly sophisticated.  I lost track of the number of times the word “raffiné” is used during the interviews with production team and cast.  It’s certainly a highly involved piece of meta theatre running the gamut of operatic conventions and adding a few touches of its own.  It’s just as well really as all of this is wrapped around a conventionally paper thin plot.

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Mozart and sheep puppets

When the Salzburg Festival decided to do all 22 Mozart operas for the 25th anniversary in 2006 there must have been a fair amount of thought put into to what to do about the lesser works. I have to say that the solution they came up with for Bastien und Bastienne, written when Mozart was twelve, and Der Schauspieldirektor is most ingenious. The director, Thomas Reichert, came up with the ingenious idea of combining the two singspiels and performing them with puppets in the Salzburger Marionettentheater. The work breaks into three parts; a largely spoken prologue based on Der Schauspieldirektor where Frank (Alfred Kleinheinz) and Buff (Radu Cojocariu) audition the puppets for the roles in Bastien und Bastienne. The puppetry in this section is quite wonderful. The decision is made to split cast Bastienne which sets up the soprano rivalry for the final part of extracts from Der Schauspieldirektor. In between we get the performance of Bastien und Bastienne with Cojocariu singing the magician Colas on stage with the puppets while Bernhard Berchtold, Evmorfia Metaxaki and Aleksandra Zamojska sing from the pit. It’s charming complete with puppet sheep. The finale well exploits the difference in voice between the fuller, more mature Zamojska and the brilliant coloratura of Metaxaki. It’s lots of fun with some good gags and excellent singing from the young cast, especially Cojocariu. The orchestra is the Junge Philharmonie Salzburg conducted by Elisabeth Fuchs.

The video direction is by Stefan Aglassinger. He does a good job of producing a coherent video which is not easy because the action takes place on stage, in the pit and around the auditorium. It was filmed in HD and the picture is an excellent 16:9. Sound options are PCM stereo and DTS 5.1. There are English, French, German and Spanish subtitles. The disc includes a reasonably interesting “Making of” documentary.