A Scintillating Saturday – Le Comte Ory at the Metropolitan; ATOS Trio at Peoples’ Symphony

This past Saturday I was quite sated with music!  In the afternoon, I attended a matinee performance of Gioachino Rossini's comic opera Le Comte Ory at the Metropolitan Opera, and in the evening I was at Washington Irving High School for a concert by the ATOS Trio sponsored by Peoples' Symphony Concerts.  Each in its own way was a feast for the ears.

Rossini's Le Comte Ory was his last comic opera (the last dramatic opera being Guillaume Tell), and it is a crazy concoction.  Rossini had composed an "occasional" opera, Il Viaggio a Reims, for performance during the celebration of the coronation of King Charles X of France in 1825.  As it was unlikely that this piece would ever be revived in its original form (or so he thought), Rossini looked for another vehicle to use some of the best numbers.  He ended up a new libretto by Eugene Scribe, a two-act comedy in which County Ory, a lusty young man with a yen for the Countess Adele, contrives various disguises to try to insinuate himself into her good graces.   For most of the first act, the Count is disguised as a holy hermit with strange healing powers.  For most of the second, he pretends to be a nun! 

The plot is stuff and nonsense, and I didn't think it was particularly funny – more mysogenistic, actually – but with this cast one could not complain about that.  Juan Diego Florez sang the Comte Ory, Diana Damrau portrayed the Countess Adele, and Joyce DiDonato plays the "pants role" of the Count's page, Isolier.  They were all splendid. 

This performance was broadcast live as part of the Met's HD simulcast series, so cameras were much in evidence in the theater and a bit distracting at times.  The production itself, devised by Bartlett Sher and conducted by Maurizio Benini, was quite inventive and happened to be the premiere of this work at the Met.  (Ironically, Il Viaggio, which Rossini never expected to see the light of day, has been revived and recorded and may actually be better known now than Le Comte Ory.)  A nice addition to the Met's repertory, so long as they have three real stars around to sing in it.

The ATOS Trio is a young group from Germany: Violinist Annette von Hehn, Cellist Stefan Heinemeyer, and Pianist Thomas Hoppe.  They gave a superb concert of Haydn's Trio No. 9, Beethoven's Trio No. 4, and Dvorak's Trio No. 3.  The highlight for me was definitely the slow movement of the Dvorak, which sang with such fervor that one was quite swept away.  Mr. Heinemeyer has an extraordinarily beautiful tone on the cello.  For me he stood out as the most excellent among three superb collaborative musicians.  As soon as I got home, I started scouting the internet for recordings and found a few to order.  But not the Dvorak, which they should definitely try to record soon.  Another great discovery by Peoples' Symphony, as most of their exposure so far has been in Europe.

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