Sunday, April 10, 2011

I'll have nun of that!

The Twitterverse was buzzing this afternoon as excited opera-goers watched the Metropolitan Opera's HD broadcast of Mr. Rossini's Le Comte Ory in movie theaters all across the world. Some of your intrepid reporter's favorite tweets:
  • Folks, welcome to the new Golden Age of bel canto. (The Top Tweet, whatever that means, from Operaskank)
  • #ComteOry at @MetOpera taught me that no matter how many sexy scenes I've done in operas, I'm still a long way from climaxing. (Ms_LauraD)
  • JDD's singing is amazing! And she looks like Patrick Swayze! (That was me.)
A great side benefit of tweeting these HD performances--always during intermissions, mind you!--is that I get new Twitter followers, who then become new readers of this humble blog.

The biggest news of the day was that dear Juan-Diego Florez and his wife--mostly his wife--had a baby just 35 minutes before curtain.  It was a home birth, which I assume refers to some place closer than Lima. Poor JDF had just a moment to hold the baby, whom he says they will call Leandro, and then dashed to the Met.  During an intermission interview he looked a bit dazed, but he sang beautifully throughout.

My initial crankiness, due to gross incompetence at the movie theater where I saw the broadcast, was soon overcome by the charm of the opera itself.  Mr. Bartlett Sher created a production that was clever but not distracting--a show within a show, with 19th-century stage hands and stage managers.   The story  is typically convoluted French farce--the women-folk are keepin' pure while their men-folk are gone crusadin', but the men left behind want to storm the women's fortresses.  The young rake Ory is particularly interested in Countess Adèle's ramparts and dons disguises as a hermit and a nun to try to rush them.  She's more interested in Isolier, who is not only her own cousin but also Ory's page.  Hilarity ensues.

I can not say enough about the singing of the three principals.  JDF, as I mentioned, was his usual amazing self.  I know he is a singer who inspires strong opinions on both sides of the fence, but I'm very much on the pro side.  I love his sense of fun.  When he was disguised as a hermit, he occasionally cocked an eyebrow in a knowing way to the audience.  His inner turmoil between grabbing at what he wanted and keeping his disguise--both as a hermit and as a nun--was quite a comic delight.

Joyce Didonato, as I mentioned in a tweet, looked and acted like a cocky young man and sang like a goddess.  I stated in another post that JDD is the world standard for roles like Cherubino and Rosina, and her singing here as Isolier the page was predictably beautiful and lyrical in the legato passages and thrilling and clean in the coloratura passages.

Diana Damrau.  What to say?  Her singing was exactly what it should be--even throughout, thrilling at the top, with cleanly executed coloratura--and her comic acting was a joy to see.  Some reviews of the opening suggested she had sacrificed singing for comic effect, but if that is so I saw no evidence of it today.   She also looked stunning in some of the most beautiful costumes I've seen at the Met for a long time.

The supporting cast were also quite good.  Susanne Resmark as Countess Adèle's companion Ragonde contributed a powerful mezzo voice, apt characterization, and a couple of other things in her low-cut costume.  Stéphane Degout played Ory's bud Raimbaud, giving us a beautiful, ringing baritone, making Raimbaud's drinking song in Act III quite memorable.  Michele Pertusi sang the Tutor quite well.

The Met chorus, as usual, was amazing, and the orchestra, under Maurizio Benini, played at its usual very high standard.  The set design by Michael Yeargen, and especially the costume design by Catherine Zuber, deserve special praise.  Miss Damrau was not the only singer in stunning costumes and wigs.

Just one small complaint.  The famed bed scene, where Ory enters Countess Adèle's darkened bed chamber to seduce her, but Adèle and Isolier  know he's coming and set about to foil him by having Isolier in bed between Adèle and Ory.  Yeah, if the explanation is that awkward, think how difficult it can be to stage it.  This trio at times resembled Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In more than French farce.  Any notion that Ory didn't know it that there was more than one other person in bed with him, or that he was making out with someone other than Adèle, had to fly out the window.

Still, I didn't mind so much.  Overall the opera was a delight.  I will see it in the house in just over a week, so I will likely want to post an update then.
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