You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Le Comte Ory

Bartlett Sher and his Broadway design team have come with an all-purpose production for that Rossini rarity "Le Comte Ory," being given its company premiere.

Count Ory - Juan Diego
Florez Isolier - Joyce DiDonato
Countess Adele - Diana Damrau
With: Stephane Degout, Monica Yunus, Susanne Resmark, Michele Pertusi, Tony Stevenson, Tyler Simpson, Rob Besserer.

Bartlett Sher and his Broadway design team have come with an all-purpose production for that Rossini rarity “Le Comte Ory,” being given its company premiere. Their take on the frothy story of a count (Juan Diego Florez) who impersonates a hermit and then a nun in order to bed a countess (Diana Damrau) is so generic that the physical production could be used for “Lohengrin” or “Don Giovanni” or “Suor Angelica,” if Catherine Zuber could take in all those nun habits that the male choristers wear.

Staging an opera as a play within a play looked tired when the Met did it back in the 1970s for another French novelty from the 19th century, Meyerbeer’s “Le prophete.” The stage is big and bare, there’s a raised platform, a few sticks of timber make for a false proscenium, and usually there’s a shower curtain of sorts that stagehands unfurl to bring the action downstage for more intimate scenes. What opera is this? Take your pick.

Bare isn’t just empty-looking, it’s also nearly impossible for actors to be funny or play farce on a unit set, by Michael Yeargan, that is this enormous and, again, empty. Classic screwball comedies often take place on a train or a ship, because the characters are confined, and that confinement makes their desperate attempts to resolve conflict amusing.

Sher does set up the necessary comic restrictions late in “Le Comte Ory” with the sublime trio “A la faveur de cette nuit obscure.” He has taken liberties with the libretto and put the count and the countess in bed with the count’s page (Joyce DiDonato in a pants role), who also has the hots for the countess, as well as the count and vice versa. (That’s the “liberties” part, which is fine, because it’s more intriguing than what Rossini and company had in mind back in 1828.) Anyway, it’s a big bed and Yeargan has it tilt so the audience gets a great view of all the groping and gyrating. It’s funny, because the quarters are extremely close, the three characters are struggling, yet they’re looking to get off and they’re going through major lengths to consummate.

Also, that big bed gives their voices an acoustical shell, something that is entirely lacking elsewhere in this physical production. Florez sounded like a pipsqueak early in the evening. Then Damrau and DiDonato, with their first arias, made the same first bad impression. Their fault? Maybe they were all suffering from agoraphobia.

These three singers are attractive and game performers, but they’re not inspired actors. To carry off this kind of a bare-bones approach, you’d need their voices plus the acting genius of a Mark Rylance (“La Bete”) or a Geoffrey Rush (“Exit the King”).

Zuber’s costumes are sumptuous throughout.

Popular on Variety

Le Comte Ory

Metropolitan Opera, New York City; 3,800 seats, $360 top

Production: A Metropolitan Opera presentation of an opera in two acts by Gioacchino Rossini, Eugene Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson. Directed by Bartlett Sher. Conductor, Maurizio Benini.

Creative: Set, Michael Yeargan; costumes, Catherine Zuber, lighting, Brian MacDevitt. Opened, reviewed March 24, 2011. Running time: 2 HOURS, 45 MIN.

Cast: Count Ory - Juan Diego
Florez Isolier - Joyce DiDonato
Countess Adele - Diana Damrau
With: Stephane Degout, Monica Yunus, Susanne Resmark, Michele Pertusi, Tony Stevenson, Tyler Simpson, Rob Besserer.

More Legit

  • Ben McKenzie

    'Gotham' Star Ben McKenzie to Make Broadway Debut in 'Grand Horizons'

    “Gotham” star Ben McKenzie will make his Broadway debut in Bess Wohl’s “Grand Horizons.” He joins a cast that includes Oscar nominees Jane Alexander (“Kramer vs. Kramer,” “The Great White Hope”) and James Cromwell (“Babe,” “L.A. Confidential”). The show has a strictly limited 10-week run and begins previews on Dec. 23, 2019, before officially opening [...]

  • The Great Society review

    Listen: Brian Cox on 'Succession,' Shakespeare, and the Crisis We're In

    Brian Cox is having a pop-culture moment with “Succession,” the buzzy HBO series in which he stars. But he’s also an accomplished theater actor with plenty of experience doing Shakespeare — and it serves him well in both “Succession” and in his current Broadway show, “The Great Society.” Listen to this week’s podcast below: Cox [...]

  • Scooby Doo Ella Louise Allaire Martin

    Scooby-Doo Live Theater Tour Is Goofy Dane's Latest Adventure

    From its 1969 start as a Saturday morning kids mystery cartoon series “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” starring its titular, talking Great Dane and his four teenaged friends, has made adventure its staple. Once Hanna-Barbera’s successor, Warner Bros. Animation, took the leash, Scooby and company became a comic book, a board game, a series of video [...]

  • Tootsie Santino Fontana

    'Tootsie' Ending Broadway Run in January

    “Tootsie,” the critically acclaimed musical adaptation of the 1982 classic film comedy, will play its final Broadway performance on Jan. 5, 2020. When it wraps up its run, the show will have logged 293 regular and 25 preview performances at the cavernous Marquis Theatre, where it sometimes labored to draw big crowds. Last week, “Tootsie” [...]

  • Laurel Griggs

    Laurel Griggs, Broadway and 'SNL' Actress, Dies at 13

    Laurel Griggs, who starred in Broadway’s “ONCE the Musical” as Ivanka, has died. She was 13. An obituary posted to Dignity Memorial indicates she died on Nov. 5, and Griggs’ grandfather wrote on Facebook that her death was due to a massive asthma attack. Griggs made her Broadway debut when she was six years old [...]

  • West End celling collapse

    Ceiling Collapse at 'Death of a Salesman' Leads to Theater Closure, Boycott Threats

    The West End revival of “Death of a Salesman” has moved into a temporary space after parts of the ceiling of Piccadilly Theatre collapsed during a Wednesday night performance. Five audience members sustained minor injuries and were taken to area hospitals. The theater will remain closed for the rest of the week. In the meantime, [...]

  • Tina review

    Broadway Review: 'Tina'

    “Now, that’s what I call a Broadway show!” That’s what the stranger sitting next to me at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater yelled into my ear at the roof-raising finale of “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.” I’d say he nailed it. Call “Tina” a jukebox musical or a bio-musical or anything you want to call it, but [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content