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Today we’re listening to…
“A la faveur de cette nuit obscure”, the final trio from Gioachino Rossini’s Le Comte Ory (“luh cohnt orEE”).
Rossini was 31 when he moved to Paris. By this point, he has 12 years of experience and 30 operas under his belt. Rossini was ready to stretch himself in terms of creativity and style. He composed several operas for the Paris audience, including a French version of his Mosé in Egitto (Moïse et Pharaon) and Le Comte Ory before his last opera Guillaume Tell (William Tell). Le Comte Ory was Rossini’s last comedy.
“In the final trio of Rossini’s Le Comte Ory, the opera reaches an almost perfect balance of the sublime and the ridiculous. The title character begins with an aria of extreme lyricism. Soon after, the two leading ladies enter to trick him, leading him into bed. The intimacy and the blurring of sexual identity and gender — there’s a tenor, soprano and mezzo-soprano, and the mezzo is a woman playing a young man — feel so contemporary that the divinity of music is genuinely breathtaking. The heat and purity of the music make the trio both elegant and ravishing.”
Le Comte Ory
Le Comte Ory is funny, and it’s light (the French libretto was by Eugène Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson adapted from a comedy they had first written in 1817). Tbh, not a lot there. So what’s the appeal? Like so many of Rossini’s operas, it allows incredible voices to shine. As we’ve mentioned before, Rossini wrote opera roles for people, not voice types, so this makes sense (that’s why you will often hear a soprano or mezzo-soprano singing the same Rossini roles).
Set in the 12th century, Rossini’s 1828 comic opera Le Comte Ory is the story of a young guy (Count Ory) and his ineffective efforts to win over the lady Adèle who is sequestered in a castle while her brother is away fighting in the Crusades. Count Ory is determined to break into the castle and get with the Countess Adèle! But how does he plan to get in and seduce her? In vintage Rossini tradition, he decides that disguise is the way to go. He disguises himself first as a hermit monk in Act I and then as a female pilgrim in Act II.
In this trio, taking one last effort to get his hands on the Countess, Ory breaks into her bedroom in the night. In the dark, he reaches out across the room and touches her hand. It’s not her hand, though! Isolier reveals that it is his hand the Count is holding (remember Isolier is a mezzo-soprano playing a young man), and it was his mouth that he kissed. But, their time is up: the men of the village have returned. Isolier (who loves Adèle) helps the Count and his men escape via a secret passage and stays behind with the Countess.
🎧 Listen here (10 minute listen), “A la faveur de cette nuit obscure” the trio from Rossini’s Le Comte Ory with Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez (Count Ory), Mezzo-soprano Marie-Ange Todorovitch (Isolier) and Soprano Stefania Bonfadelli (Countess Adèle), Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna
📺 Watch & Listen here (10 minute listen), “A la faveur de cette nuit obscure” the trio from Rossini’s Le Comte Ory with Marc Laho (Count Ory), Diana Montague (Isolier), Annick Massis (Adèle), Glyndebourne Festival
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