In spring 2011, the first-ever performances at New York's Metropolitan Opera of Rossini's Le Comte Ory brought standing ovations and critical-acclaim. The spectacular trio of Juan Diego Florez, Diana Damrau and Joyce DiDonato ignited vocal and theatrical fireworks. Le Comte Ory tells the story of a libidinous and cunning nobleman who disguises himself first as a hermit and then as a nun ("Sister Colette") in order to gain access to the virtuous Countess Adele, whose brother is away at the Crusades. The 2011 Met production was directed by the Tony Award-winning Broadway director Bartlett Sher, who in recent years has also staged Il barbiere di Siviglia and Les Contes d'Hoffman for the Met. Sher presented the action as an opera within an opera, updated the action by a few centuries and giving the costume designer, Catherine Zuber, the opportunity to create some particularly extravagant headgear. Juan Diego Florez starred as the title role while Diana Damrau plays his love interest, Countess Adele, and Joyce DiDonato was in breeches as his pageboy Isolier. The trio had appeared in Sher's production of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia.
After its successful premiere, Rossini’s opera “Armida” was quickly forgotten, only to be triumphantly revived by Maria Callas in 1952, and ever since it is considered a masterpiece. This performance with primarily Italian forces, has all the wit, charm, beauty and sparkle that any Rossini opera can wish for. Some big names here: Cecilia Gasdia, Chris Merritt,William Matteuzzi and Ferruccio Furlanetto. Great addition to the Brilliant Classics Opera Collection. Armida is today considered one of Rossini’s greatest operas, but following its premier in Naples in 1817 it quickly faded from the standard operatic repertoire. Its plot of knightly duties, love and supernatural worlds (foreshadowing Weber in places) inspired the composer to write some of his most original and inimitable music, with unusual combinations of instruments and some beautiful extended solos for cello and violin.The love music is undeniably heartfelt and sincere; Rossini’s inspiration may have been assisted by his romantic involvement with the soprano Isabella Colbran, a major star of the time and the first to perform the title role.
The splendidly florid music, and amazing opportunities for bel canto vocalism make up for it. This recording, using the critical edition, is outstanding on the vocal front. The stunning Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Vesselina Kasarova has a rich, full tone and clean, accurate runs. She is well partnered by Eva Mei, whose bright but effective soprano carries a good characterization of a dramatically rather thankless role. Tenor Ramon Vargas nails his coloratura and possesses a ringing tone. They are well supported by the secondary principals, Muenchen Rundfunkorchester and the men of the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, all superbly conducted by Roberto Abbado. As an added bonus, the listener can choose between the original happy ending and the dramatically more viable tragic conclusion with which Rossini later revised the opera. –Sarah Bryan Miller
The famous composer's life and his career. His love story with Isabella Colbran, the soprano who was to become his wife and the singer in all his operas up to the unfortunate day she lost her voice.