ROSSINI Le Comte Ory / Cecilia Bartoli 0743467

Musical standards are high, with Tang and the orchestra bouncing the score merrily along. Bartoli sends herself up as a straitlaced noblewoman who turns into a carefree hedonist . . . [a] consistent voice . . . with neither the higher nor the lower register giving her any trouble . . . [Javier Camarena]: facility with high notes and . . . accomplished comic acting . . . [Juan Diego Flórez's coloratura is] flawlessly neat . . . Rebeca Olvera makes a dapper, vocally proficient Isolier . . . Good fun all around.

This is serious fun! Leiser and Caurier bring their trademark combination of insight, warmth and humour to one of Rossini's more neglected comic operas. Bartoli and Camarena are both in rich voice and revel in a production that allows their comic gifts to shine. Zurich Opera's period orchestra, La Scintilla, do indeed scintillate; their sparkling, detailed playing is the icing on a delightful cake.

. . . [Javier Camarena] is in top form here, and a fine comic actor as well . . . And Cecilia Bartoli her mllions of notes with the greatest of ease -- what a pleasure it is to see these two artists in their duets and their many solos. Sets and costumes by Christian Fenouillat are simple but effective and the two directors, Moshe Leiser and Patrick Caurier, keep things moving nicely. Conductor Muhai Tang misses none of the humor of the score, with a spirited chorus and orchestra. Video and audio are excellent. A charming issue, worth owning even if you already have the Met version.

These two DVDs offer ample evidence of Camarena's capital Rossinian credentials, tragic and comic . . . they're a fine display of his range as a singer and an actor -- and they're also excellent, theatrically vibrant performances of the two marvelous operas at hand . . . [Muhai Tang] stylishly leading Zurich Opera's period band, La Scintilla. The ensemble, as ever, lives up to its name, its nimble wind players in particularly scintillating form . . . this practiced production team brings out the best in these two very different operas, and in the singers enacting them . . . John Osborn's Otello, keen-toned and commanding, looks the part to near perfection and acts with focused intensity . . . ["Otello" / Act 2]: Camarena pours out his grief first in hushed, honeyed cantilena, then in torrents of anguished fioritura . . . Later in the act, he and Osborn trade combative high Cs and Ds (and a little of Osborn's makeup) as they square off head-to-head in a display of tenorial prowess that, back when I was discovering Rossini, would have astonished operagoers. It's still pretty thrilling now. Behaving like a greedy child unleashed in a pasticceria, Edgardo Rocha employs his boyish mien and sweet tenor to make Iago's villainy all the more potent . . . As for our prima donna, all the familiar virtues (the warm, supple voice; the temperamental alacrity) and quirks (the puffed-up tone, the idiosyncratic articulation) are on display . . . she delivers her Verdi-prescient willow song and "preghiera" affectingly and fairly simply and rises bravely to her fatal showdown with Otello . . . ["Le comte Ory"]: [Bartoli] manages the tessitura adroitly and masticates with relish every comic morsel thrown her way, as in Act I when she morphs (inside Ory's hilariously garish love-shack trailer) from bespectacled spinster to unbuttoned amante. And Camarena's Ory, wonderfully and gracefully sung, is a comic marvel, a rubber-faced operatic Jonathan Winters whose oleaginous antics offer endless delight . . . [Liliana Nikiteanu is very funny] as Ragonde: one of the production's most delicious moments is hers, as the excitement-starved ladies of Countess Adele's entourage breathlessly watch her thread a needle. But there are many such joys in Leiser and Caurier's staging . . . For both operas, sound and picture are crystal-clear.

As a staging of "Le comte Ory", this is the best we have yet had on DVD . . . this delightfully imagined production actually enhances the distinctively French feel of Rossini's marvellous score . . . [Bartoli]: classy singing and delighted playing . . . It is also extremely well conducted by Muhai Tang. He leads with precision and point, and yet in that most exquisite of operatic nocturnes, the great Act 2 Trio, is capable of drawing sounds of rare beauty from the period instruments of the Orchestra La Scintilla.

. . . musically delicious . . . here you are, transported to the Zurich Opera house, watching and listening to a performance brilliantly and effervescently played by La Scintilla, a large period-instrument ensemble, and sung by some of the greatest Rossinians in the world, who also know how to act . . . [Cecilia Bartoli is] at her most brilliant. Sexy, hyper-active, singing Rossini's music with style, accuracy, beautiful tone, and wicked embellishments . . . [Bartoli] is always best in the warm acoustic of Zurich's opera house, and she not only handles the role's pyrotechnics with ease, but she sings and acts with wit and warmth . . . [Javier Camarena's] agile voice is beautiful and has no fear of heights . . . he is a remarkable comic actor; his is a brilliant performance . . . [Ugo Guagliardo sings] with a bass voice that can also trill . . . [Liliana Nikiteanu]: with a dark, imposing sound. Ory's friend Raimbaud is sung by Oliver Widmer, whose bass-baritone always impresses. Muhai Tang leads the whole shebang -- and La Scintilla -- for what it is: a comic masterpiece made up of lots of working parts, most of them delicate, that often come together in an uproarious fashion . . . brilliant.

. . . a really good production . . . The realistic modern sets and costumes actually add to the humor of the piece . . . [Bartoli,] of course, sings the role perfectly . . . She sings the fastest, most difficult Rossini fireworks as easily as most people yawn. But here she shows herself to be an excellent comic actress, whether portraying the rather prudish side of the Countess on her first entrance, her naive acceptance of the disguised Ory in Act II, or her complicity with Isolier in the great comic trio near the end. Her performance is a delight. And who knew that Javier Camarena had such comic sense and timing? Ory's various disguises (the hermit of Act I and the nun in Act II) invite lots of aside glances at the audience to show his comic scoundrel enjoying his work. Camarena's face becomes a mirror of his character's naughty intelligence; and at the end of each act, his acting as a bad little boy caught in his mischievous plots is really funny. That he can be this funny while singing Rossini's fiendish music puts him in the front rank of today's Rossini singers. The rest of the cast . . . is just about as good. As Isolier, Rebeca Olvera displays fine Rossini technique and certainly contributes greatly as the "centerpiece" of the trio. Liliana Nikiteanu makes a loveable Ragonde, and Oliver Widmer . . . and Ugo Guagliardo add their considerable comic and vocal talents to the supporting roles of Raimbaud and the Governor. Again the Zurich Opera chorus and orchestra are impressive, under the leadership of Muhai Tang . . . a useful booklet . . .

A fine rendition of this terrific piece . . . one cannot dismiss Bartoli in anything she does, still the most technically proficient singer in the world, and her co-star Javier Camarena gives us not only a fluent and gorgeously-sung Ory but also a droll and highly-developed sense of comedy. It's a modern-day setting that works just fine in this context . . . the performance is very good on all levels, excellent visuals and sound . . .

[Javier Camarena]: Here, in a spirited production of Rossini's madcap comedy from Zurich Opera, is a chance to observe his coloratura chops and acting talents up close as he charms and cheats his way into a castle full of women in pursuit of the spirited Adèle, sung with vivacious charm by the mezzo Cecilia Bartoli.

. . . eminently collectable . . . ["Le comte Ory" DVD / Blu-ray]: Vocally there is much to enjoy . . . Camarena relishes the Count's high tessitura, using both full voice and "voix mixte" for the top notes, according to their context . . . Bartoli is in great voice, with perfectly oiled coloratura, touching in the highest notes of this soprano part (none of which is sustained) most delicately. Rebeca Olvera's Isolier is clearer in timbre and stronger in manner, as befits the young, hot-blooded page. Oliver Widmer has his moment of glory in Raimbaud's solo "Dans ce lieu solitaire", which he dispatches with top-speed patter, fluent runs and sureness in the wide-ranging register . . . ["Otello" DVD / Blu-ray]: The whole of Act 3 is magnificently done . . . The last few minutes of the opera are overwhelming . . . Bartoli's interaction with her partners is strikingly vivid . . . Bartoli's every word in the extensive recitatives tells (these are given complete), and she fills Rossini's coloratura with dramatic meaning . . . John Osborn has all the notes for Otello . . . Rossini's writing is always excitingly dramatic, and Zurich's three tenors know how to make the most of it. Edgardo Rocha's steely-voiced Iago exudes malevolence through every note . . . and the recording catches his every insidious aside . . . Peter Kálmán brings a menacing, dark bass to the calculating politician Elmiro . . . [in both operas, the use of the period-instrument orchestra] comes into its own in the numerous interludes that introduce and punctuate the set pieces . . . Muhai Tang conducts enthusiastically, and the orchestra nicely realizes Rossini's (surely unique) marking of "smorfioso" ("simpering").

. . . marvellous Rossini interpreters join forces in this sophisticated staging.

Zürichs Originalinstrumente-Ensemble La Scintilla spielt wenig zartfühlend, aber pointenprall; vom Dirigent Muhai Tang durchaus so gewollt. Der agile Javier Camarena gibt erst den scheinheiligen Eremiten und schließlich die falsche Nonne, die den Damen an die Wäsche geht. Dabei fliegen BHs, Höschen und hohe Cs in die Menge, letztere pfeilgenau abgeschossen. Sein ihm bei den Frauen in die Quere kommender Page Isolier gibt die mezzo-samtige Rebeca Olvera. Und die Bartoli spielt mit Wonne die sexuell frustrierte Madame. Schnell zerfließt sie in bebender Leidenschaft, setzt vorsichtig gläserne Spitzentöne, legt aber schnell an komisch wuchtigem Tempo zu.

Wenn die wundervolle Cecilia Bartoli singt, darf man sich immer auf Außergewöhnliches freuen, so auch bei ["Otello" und "Le comte Ory"] . . . Die Bartoli singt die Partie der Desdemona mit einer solchen Leidenschaft und Hingabe, dass einem der Atem stockt. Dass sie auch eine umwerfende Komödiantin ist, kann die Bartoli in Rossinis "Le Comte Ory" zeigen. Wie sie hier aus der Rolle der Comtesse Adèle ein in intensiven Farben schillerndes Charakterportrait macht, wie sie Gesit und Esprit versprüht, das sucht seinesgleichen. Auch ihr Umfeld bleibt Rossini nichts schuldig.