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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Woman on the edge

A few weeks ago I reviewed Phillippe Béziat’s documentary traviata et nous, about the making of the 2011 Aix festival La Traviata.  I’ve now had a chance to watch the DVD of the finished product and it’s superb.  Forget those Traviatas in which a star soprano simpers vacuously across an overstuffed set, this is compelling drama.  François Sivadier’s production is dark, dangerous and incredibly moving.  Natalie Dessay’s Violetta is a terrifyingly intense portrait of a woman who knows from the beginning she is dying in “this desert which is known to men as Paris”.  There is no further need for heavy symbolism to remind us of the centrality of death to the piece which makes an interesting contrast with Willy Decker’s famous production.

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Happy families

Dmitri Tcherniakov’s Don Giovanni recorded at the 2010 Aix-en-Provence festival is full on Regie.  He takes the characters and story of Mozart/DaPonte and recasts them quite radically.  Zerlina is Donna Anna’s daughter.  Donna Elvira, Donna Anna’s cousin, is married to Don Giovanni.  Leporello is a family member too.  The sense is of one extended, conventional, bourgeois family in which Don Giovanni is a fatally disruptive intrusion.  Tcherniakov changes the time line too.  Instead of taking place over a 24 hour period the story plays out over many weeks.

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