Le Comte Ory [Opera in two acts; sung in French]
Le comte Ory Juan Diego Flórez
La comtesse de Formoutiers (Adèle) Stefania Bonfadelli
Isolier Marie-Ange Todorovitch
Raimbaud Bruno Praticò
Le Gouverneur Alastair Miles
Ragonde Marina De Liso
Alice Rossella Bevacqua
Prague Chamber Choir
Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna
Recorded in August 2003, Teatro Rossini, Pesaro
Reviewed by: John T. Hughes
Reviewed: February 2005
CD No: DG 477 5020 (2 CDs)
Duration: 2 hours 11 minutes
“Le Comte Ory” is one of Rossini’s most delightful operas: charming, enchanting, effervescent, amusing and unceasingly tuneful. The present recording is a live one from the 2003 Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro. Its CD competitors are the complete Philips set with John Aler and Sumi Jo under John Eliot Gardiner and the cut performance on EMI based on Vittorio Gui’s Glyndebourne presentation fifty years ago. It is amusing to read that one critic has found this new offering “recommendable only to dyed-in-the-wool Flórez devotees” whereas another states that it is “now the recording of choice”. A third opinion, mine, will therefore bring disagreement from somebody.
Jesús López-Cobos’s speeds are sometimes fast, which will be appreciated by some for the challenge to singers and orchestra and regretted by others for recklessness. The Act One finale, from Count Ory’s “Venez amis, retirons-nous”, does become something of a scramble. It is clear when Ory, Isolier, Countess Adèle and Ragonde enter one after the other, but when all the soloists and the chorus come together it becomes hectic. The best conducting in the sets is Gui’s.
Marina De Liso is a firm-voiced Ragonde who provides a strong support in ensemble. Bruno Praticò moves nimbly but a more-suave tone might have been more suitable. The rich tones of Alastair Miles are a great asset, cleanly dealing with the little figurations in his aria. Each of the three sets has a fine Isolier. Marie-Ange Todorovitch is lively, her voice secure at both ends and pleasing in quality. She impresses in all she does.
Both the critics to whom I referred have strong reservations about Stefania Bonfadelli. I do not share them. One writes that she has an incipient wobble. I hear a vibrato, which is far from being a wobble and for much of the time I do not regard that vibrato as marked. The other refers to notes that are “rancid at the top of the voice”. I am not sure what ‘rancid’ means with regard to the voice: it is certainly not complimentary. The top is certainly bright and may be a touch piercing, but the middle is warm.
As the eponymous Count, Juan Diego Flórez is splendid. Juan Oncina, for EMI, may have a more gentle tone but top notes tax him and he lacks, as most tenors do, Flórez’s technique. Only Rockwell Blake has matched it as Count Ory, but he has not recorded the role. Flórez’s voice may be short on colours, but he varies it by using different emphases, altering the weight he places on notes and by employing head-voice at times, even, amusingly, falsetto in his guise as a nun. He possesses and provides everything necessary for the wonderful trio “A la faveur…” in Act Two.
The recording is extremely clear. If all live performances were captured in as fine sound as this one, listeners would be well served. It is interesting that the recording producer is Ernesto Palacio, Flórez’s teacher and a former Rossinian tenor of much ability. I shall not rid my collection of the other sets, but this my recommendation. At least I agree with one of those critics on that conclusion.