Brad Cohen

Rossini: Le Comte Ory

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Naxos' recording of Le Comte Ory is taken from live performances at the 2002 Rossini in Wildbad Festival. The performance suffers from problems typical of live recordings and of provincial productions. The sound is variable, although its quality is basically good -- the sound is clear and the orchestra and singers are well miked, so details aren't lost. As singers move around the stage, though, their voices vary in volume and presence. There is noticeable stage noise, and the smatterings of applause between numbers are disheartening, and ultimately more distracting than an outright ovation would have been. There is also a considerable disparity in the quality of the vocal performances. As the villainous but resourceful Count Ory, tenor Huw Rhys-Evans is mostly in strong voice, but there are moments when his intonation wavers. Soprano Linda Gerrard is altogether charming as the Countess; she manages her coloratura passages with ease and stylishness, and is especially persuasive in her aria " En proie à la tristesse." In the trouser role of Isolier, mezzo-soprano Luisa Islam-Ali-Zade is also in fine form, and sings with strong conviction. Most of the other roles are at least adequately handled, but without distinction. The chorus, which has such a prominent part in the opera, sings forcefully, but without much finesse, and the orchestra plays well, but without the sparkle that Rossini's comedies require to be fully effective. Overall, the production fails to convey the essential sense of fun that the opera needs. The performance of Le Comte Ory on Deutsche Grammophon featuring Juan Diego Flórez, a marvelous comedian, offers a far more compelling, professional, and entertaining presentation of the opera.

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