Rossini’s Le Comte Ory is extremely silly. It’s a crazy, gender bending romp with no real substance but plenty of rather crude humour and good tunes. I suspect it’s beyond the wit of any director than do more than make sure the mad cap elements are mad enough but one is, I suppose, bound to try. For their 2012 production in Zürich, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier chose to set the piece in immediately post war France. It works well enough and allows for a few visual gags but it doesn’t really add much to the piece. Nor, though, does it detract.
It’s hard to fault any aspect of the new recording of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte recorded earlier this year at the Baden-Baden festival. The soloists are consistently good, and in some cases very good indeed, Simon Rattle is in the pit with the Berlin Philharmonic and Robert Carsen’s production is beautiful to look at and thought provoking without being pointlessly provocative. Add to that first rate video direction and superb Blu-ray sound and picture quality and one has a disk that looks competitive even in the very crowded market for Zauberflöte recordings.
Oddly enough, given the post previous to this, Reiner Moritz’s essay in the booklet accompanying this recording of Cavalli’s La Didone brings up the Harnoncourt/Ponelle Monteverdi recordings as a precursor to what he sees as Bill Christie’s similar championing of Cavalli. I guess the big difference is that only three of Monteverdi’s operas survive while we have 27 of Cavalli’s. I think he may have a point though. It seems to me that 17th century Italian opera works on an aesthetic which is very in tune with today. The relative spareness and clarity of the music seems closer to Britten than to Verdi and the cynicism and explicit sexuality of the libretti closer to Anna Nicole than La Bohème.
Massenet’s Cendrillon is less often performed than Rossini’s take on the same basic story. I’m really not sure why. Rossini’s take is a bit weird (in a good way), especially in the Ponelle production, but Massenet’s is much more interesting musically. Oddly enough there’s only one version on DVD; a 2011 recording from the Royal Opera House. Fortunately it’s very good. The production is by Laurent Pelly and it has quite a bit in common with his La Fille du Regiment. Here the set is made up of pages from the original syory by Perrault rather than military maps but the effect is similar. Costumes are quite cartoonish (shades of the recent Alice in Wonderland ballet) except for Cendrillon herself, the prince and her father. There’s a strong emphasis on the humorous side of the piece and the “ballets” are thoroughly subverted.