Rush out immediately and secure your tickets for the Lyric’s production of Rossini’s Le Comte Ory, playing from now to November 26th. This is a production that is firing on all cylinders with pyrotechnic singing, and a charming book and score that supports the comedy at every turn. You will leave completely impressed by the cast and production.
Rossini’s final opera assures you of everything you love about him. From the light and sparkling musical motifs to the incredibly intricate lines for the singers, this is a showcase of musical masters at work.
The plot is simple enough, while the men of the land are away fighting the Crusades, notorious playboy and libertine Le Comte Ory makes up his mind to seduce the virtuous sister of one of them and as many other ladies as he can manage along the way. He brings with him his knights, including his sidekick Raimbaud, all bent on debauchery.
He conceals himself in the virtuous Countess Adele’s village by pretending to be a visiting holy hermit and seduces the young ladies with promises of a peek into their futures. After beguiling them all and securing the notice of Adele, his Tutor and Page Isolier, a cousin of Adele’s, arrive, bent on stopping him. During a conversation Isolier reveals a plan he’s had for pretending to be a pilgrim to gain access to the female-only castle. Ory decides to steal this idea and do it, himself. Hijinks ensue.
That is the basic, very simple plot, but the amusing ins and outs of it make for a delightful, comedic show that allows the singers to show their considerable acting skills as well as their incredible vocals. From the chorus to the principles every single person on the stage has humorous business to accomplish and accomplish it they do, to the audience’s delight.
After attending many a Lyric performance over the years, this is one of the things I find the most perplexing about it. Why is one opera lavished with attention and one cast given plenty of direction and interesting things to do, and another spend an entire show languishing without anything at all? It makes no sense to me, but the cast of Le Comte Ory benefits from the former. There are hilarious moments performed just by chorus members as well as by the principals. So make sure you tear your eyes away from the mesmerizing leads for a second or two. There’s so much going on, and all of it is splendid.
This is the broadest of broad comedy. So don’t be expecting subtlety of any kind outside of the way this entire cast approaches Rossini’s score.
Lawrence Brownlee as the titular Count anchors the whole production with this expert singing and superb comedic timing. From stratospheric notes to humorous asides to the audience, he can do it all and you love to root for this charming villain.
The real star of this show has to be Kathryn Lewek as Adele, however. Though we don’t see her until the end of the first act, her singing is so adept and so perfect for this incredibly challenging Rossini score that you almost forget how much running around and acting she’s doing while she’s at it. From her hilarious work with her long sash/handkerchief, to the wild bed scene in the second act, she is absolutely mesmerizing to watch. But when she sings, it’s absolutely sublime. Her technique is truly impressive and she does the music proud. I would listen to her sing the phone book.
Kayleigh Decker as the page Isolier, Comte Ory’s Rival for Adele’s affection is splendid in her trouser role. Her voice is light and supple, but the physicality she brings to this very broad comedic part is exceptional. She’s an incredible actor, which serves this opera and this part superbly.
Zoie Reams as Ragonde, Adele’s attendant and Marco Palazzi as the Tutor are good fun ably adding their mezzo and bass notes to this terrific cast.
Ian Rucker is the weakest link here, but he is the young understudy absolutely killing it as Raimbaud. He delivered some incredibly fun moments. Again with the solid acting. He’s just not loud enough in comparison to the rest but I can’t wait to see how his career unfolds if this is his first foray into a major part at the Lyric.
The Lyric Opera’s superb chorus is absolutely off the hook in this one. Their singing is joyful and skillful and so much comedy business – men and women alike, though the men’s drinking song is an absolute highlight. I wish every director would give them this much to do. Their talents are often wasted and here they absolutely shine. The a capella section alone was so subtle and perfect it gave you chills.
Enrique Mazzola’s orchestral direction provided the platform for all the singers to romp upon and added to the visual and aural confection that is this opera and production. I wish I could have paid even more attention, but there was so much going on!
I didn’t understand the costuming at all, as visually lovely as it was. The Third Crusade against Saladin, who is name-checked in this opera, was from 1189-1192 C.E. and that’s when the opera is set. None of the costumes save for the knights who appear at the end appeared to be from this era. But half of the costumes looked 18th Century. It is, however, colorful and bright. And you mostly don’t care because everything is so fun. But you could have done this in the correct period and had whimsical and fun costumes, so I don’t really get the point.
This production is just so wonderful, you need to get out to see it immediately and drag anyone you know who might have the slightest interest in opera. This will win them over. Tickets are available at the Lyric boxoffice.
Photography by Todd Rosenberg