Le Comte Ory

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Premiere
Thursday 16th February 2013, 7 pm

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The lecherous Count Ory is a character from troubadour’s tales. A ballad from Picardy relates how he smuggled himself into a convent with fourteen companions dressed as nuns and fathered fourteen new knights with the real nuns. Rossini’s last comic opera was based on a play by the veteran playwright Eugène Scribe about this Count Ory and is an extremely racy masterpiece in terms of both music and plot. The libretto is a witty parody of the classical French tragedy.

Nearly all the men are away at the Crusades. When they left, their wives had to swear to remain chaste and are now languishing bored in their castles. The beautiful young Countess of Formoutiers sinks into deep melancholy. Because she cannot find any reason for her sadness she consults an apparently pious hermit to ask him to help her get to the bottom of her unhappiness. However, this hermit is none other than Count Ory, known throughout the land as a notorious womaniser. He intends to make the most of the absence of the other men. He has almost succeeded in persuading the Countess to take him with her to her castle as her spiritual counsellor when his cover is blown and he is chased away. But the lecher does not give up and, disguised as a nun, manages to gain admission to the castle after all. Only Isolier the page finds Ory out and is ultimately able to prevent the Countess, whom he loves tenderly but platonically, from being dishonoured.

For Le Comte Ory, Rossini used music from his coronation opera Il viaggio a Reims (1825), feeling that that work was difficult to stage but, at the same time, being justifiably proud of its music. The vocal trio “À la faveur de cette nuit obscure” in which the nocturnal erotic confusion between the Countess, Ory and Isolier reaches its high point, was praised by Hector Berlioz as a uniquely brilliant idea. Le Comte Ory is Rossini’s last musical comedy. Following Guillaume Tell in 1829 he retired from composing operas once and for all.