Comte Ory sings at Opéra Comique and in Versailles

Comte Ory disguised as a hermit seduces the crowds, photo, Vincent Pontet

With this new production of “Comte Ory” by Gioachino Rossini, Théâtre National de l’Opéra comique proves that, after one year post-renovations, it has found its marks with its director Olivier Mantei. The work directed by a team from Comédie Française, Denis Podalydès, Eric Ruf and the magical Christian Lacroix for costumes, has been sold out for months. It will have two extra evenings at Versailles this month in the Théâtre Royal.

Philippe Talbot (Comte Ory) disguised as a nun and Julie Fuchs (la Comtesse), costumes by Christian Lacroix, photo, Vincent Pontet

The public is welcomed by a stage curtain, a large painting of Duc d’Aumale fighting in Algeria in the 1840’s with his soldiers dressed in bright red pants. The opera, which takes places in the Middle Ages during the crusades, is definitely set in the 19 th century at a time when Rossini lived in Paris and composed it on a French libretto by Eugène Scribe. At 37 he had already written fifty works  and “Comte Ory”, his first opera in French,  was played without interruption from 1828 to 1884, for almost sixty years!

Philippe Talbot, (Comte Ory) with Gaelle Arquez (Isolier), photo, Vincent Pontet

The Italian composer was born in Pesaro in 1792 and wrote his first opera at 18 in Venice, « La cambiale de matrimonio ». At 21, he is sacred the most famous composer in Italy ! Married to the singer, Isabella Colbran, he is asked by French king Charles X to run the Théâtre Royal Italien in Paris.

The story is of two ladies, La Comtesse (a widow sung by an exceptional Julie Fuchs) and Dame Ragonde (the very tall Eve-Maud Hubeaux) waiting in a large castle for their husband and relatives to come back from the crusades. They do not allow any men inside the premises.

Comte Ory and his companion Raimbaud, will use clever stratagems to enter the castle and try and seduce the lovely ladies. But Isolier, sung by the splendid Gaëlle Arquez, is in love with the Comtesse and will not let his master, Comte Ory, seduce her.

La Comtesse and Comte Ory with the choir of nuns sung by men, photo, Vincent Pontet

The intrigue is a little old fashion and the game of voices (men parts sung by girls and nuns sung by men) and erotic trios seem impossible, but the airs composed by Rossini are totally enchanting especially with these (for once) French excellent singers and Christian Lacroix’s costumes are the stars of the show.

Château de Versailles on 12 and 14 January. Julie Fuchs will sing Alcina at Théâtre des Champs Elysées from 14 to 20 March

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