October 05, 2022
Get to know: Rossini's Le Comte Ory
Rossini's greatest comedies offer a joy and an exhilaration that few other operas can match. Written for Paris of the 1820s, Le Comte Ory is one of the comic masterpieces of the composer's incomparable career. Surprisingly, it took major opera companies many years to discover its riches, but it's now delighting audiences everywhere. This season it arrives at Lyric at last, as the first company premiere of a Rossini opera in three decades.
In medieval France, the womanizing Count Ory is entranced by the beauty of Countess Adèle. But there's a huge obstacle in Ory's way: with Adèle's brother and the other menfolk away fighting a Crusade, Adèle and the ladies of her castle are adamantly resisting all male attention! In pursuing Adèle, Ory also has to fend with his own page, Isolier, who's totally infatuated with her. Ory disguises himself as a wise hermit so he can pretend to comfort the forlorn Adèle, but his true identity is soon revealed. He then manages to get himself and his cohorts into the castle, disguised as nuns. For Rossini's audience, the result of that trick is nonstop antics, culminating in a final trio both intoxicatingly beautiful and hilarious.
Companies can't produce this opera without spectacular singing in all the major roles. The Count's music is stratospheric, with high Cs everywhere and stupendously challenging florid passages asking a lyric tenor not just for the absolute maximum in technical brilliance, but also for wit and elegance. Adèle ideally suits a radiant-voiced coloratura soprano who exudes glorious femininity. Isolier is a trouser role made to order for an enchanting lyric mezzo, and Ory's sidekick Raimbaud presents a terrific opportunity for a charming baritone who can also move his voice like the wind.
What a captivating cast Lyric has assembled for this production! Leading the way in the title role is one of the greatest Rossini singers of our age: Lawrence Brownlee, a great favorite at Lyric after his glorious performances in opera, recital, and special streamed concerts. Enhancing his immaculate vocalism and stylistic authority will be a delicious flair for comedy. Alongside him will be artists whose prowess in florid singing and vibrant theatricality will give rare pleasure: Kathryn Lewek (Adèle), previously a spectacular Queen of the Night at Lyric; company favorite Joshua Hopkins (Raimbaud), a baritone of superb vocal accomplishment and captivating personality; recent Ryan Opera Center alumna Kayleigh Decker (Isolier); and Chicago's own Zoie Reams (Ragonde).
Ever since this production's 2011 premiere at the Metropolitan Opera, audiences and critics alike have hailed the imagination of three of the most remarkable talents working in opera and theater today: director Bartlett Sher, set designer Michael Yeargan, and costume designer Catherine Zuber. Bachtrack enthused over the "riot of candy floss colors" and Yeargan's "stage-within-a-stage, with very visible 19th-century stage hands amusingly operating machinery, moving scenery and making butterflies flutter about." Sher's direction brings out all the opera's irresistible wit, which will gloriously complement the effervescent conducting of Lyric music director Enrique Mazzola.
November 13 - November 26, 2022
Le Comte Ory
Le Comte Ory
The master of operatic comedy who created The Barber of Seville strikes again with this side-splitting comedy replete with onstage antics that match its high-energy music. High jinks ensue when Countess Adèle sequesters herself in her castle while her valiant brother is away on a crusade. In his absence, the amorous Count Ory stops at nothing (including disguising himself as a nun!) to gain entry to the castle and woo the virtuous Countess. Le Comte Ory is one of opera’s most frothy delights, with music that bubbles over like the most effervescent champagne. In this pricelessly witty production, bel canto tenor par excellence Lawrence Brownlee stars in the virtuosic title role — one of his specialties internationally — opposite the Countess of Kathryn Lewek, one of her generation’s most scintillating coloratura sopranos. You’ll smile from the overture to the happy ending.