Rossini’s witty and urbane Le Comte Ory is a comic opera full of mirth and ridiculous disguises.
Countess Adèle is left home alone after her brother and his men head off to battle the Crusades. As a result, Count Ory takes advantage of the situation to try and win her over and disguises himself as a hermit with the intent of offering love advice. His page Isolier admits his love for the Countess and reveals a plan to sneak into the castle.
The Countess seeks out the hermit’s advice and upon being told to open her heart to love, she falls for Isolier. Ory’s identity is revealed when he tries to warn the Countess against Isolier.
His plan foiled, Ory and his men gain entrance into the castle disguised as female pilgrims. Ory breaks into Adèle’s bedroom at night but finds himself wooing Isolier instead since he cannot see in the darkness. The men return from the Crusades, Isolier reveals himself and helps Ory escape the castle.
”The Count Ory”
Opera in 2 acts
Sung in French
About 2 hours 20 min + interval
Circa 1200, during the Crusades in Touraine, France
The countryside before the castle of Formoutiers
The lords and men of Formoutiers have been away on a crusade. Count Ory, who hopes to seduce the countess Adèle, takes advantage of the situation. Hoping to win her hand, he disguises himself as a hermit, aided by Raimbaud, his friend. Raimbaud announces that a wise hermit will visit the village to offer advice on matters of the heart. The castle is filled with women awaiting their husbands' and brothers' return from the crusades. Ragonde discloses that the countess hopes to have the hermit ease her sadness and Raimbaud assures her that the hermit's skill is unparalleled and has helped many widows find love.
The count Ory, disguised as a hermit, arrives at the castle. The people tell him their wishes and he invites the young ladies to visit him at his hermitage that evening. Ragonde explains that the ladies have sworn to live like widows in the countess's castle while their husbands and brothers are away on the crusade. She tells the disguised Ory that the countess Adèle wishes to speak with him to which he enthusiastically agrees. Ory retires to the hermitage with the women.
Ory's page Isolier and the tutor arrive on the scene, resting from their journey in the shade. They explain that the count Ory, who is under the tutor's care, has disappeared. The tutor explains that he is searching for Ory at the behest of Ory's father ("Veiller sans cesse"). When the tutor asks why the page brought him to this place, it is revealed that Isolier wishes to visit the countess's castle.
The ladies and other peasants exit the hermitage. When the tutor sees the pretty girls, he suspects the count is near. The women tell him the hermit came to town eight days ago – the same day the count disappeared from the tutor's watch. His suspicions deepen.
Isolier is in love with the countess. He doesn't recognize Ory in disguise, and Isolier confides his love to the hermit, explaining his plan to sneak into the castle disguised as a female pilgrim (Duet: "Une dame de haut parage"). Isolier asks for the hermit's help: when the countess comes to him for advice, he should tell her that her torment is caused by her indifference and that the cure is to love Isolier. Ory likes this idea, but he is resolved to use it for his own ends.
The countess Adèle consults the hermit about a cure for her melancholia ("En proie à la tristesse"). He proposes that she fall in love, which she promptly does, with Isolier. The "hermit" warns her not to trust "the faithful page of the terrible Count Ory" and she leads him to the castle.
The tutor recognizes Raimbaud and Ory and everyone is shocked when the count's identity is revealed. Adèle receives a letter from her brother announcing that the crusade is over and the men will return to their homeland within two days.
A large room in the castle
A terrible storm persuades the countess and her attendants to welcome a group of fourteen pilgrims surprised by the elements. These pilgrims are actually Ory and his men in disguise. Ory's new disguise is as "Sister Colette". Left alone with the countess, Ory passionately approaches her (Duet: "Ah! quel respect, Madame").
Served only milk and fruit for dinner, the "pilgrims" note the lack of wine. Raimbaud to the rescue – he has broken into the castle wine cellar and returns with enough for everyone. They toast the countess's absent brother ("Dans ce lieu solitaire"). Ragonde enters to check on them and they pretend to pray, hiding the bottles. She returns with the countess, who praises them for their piety.
Isolier arrives at the castle to let the women know that their husbands and brothers will be arriving at midnight. Upon hearing that the ladies have welcomed a group of pilgrims into the castle, Isolier recognizes that it is Ory and his men. He shares this revelation with the women, who are afraid of what their husbands will think upon finding them in a castle with fourteen men.
After everyone is in bed, Ory enters countess Adèle's room. He woos her, not realizing in the dark that it is Isolier's hand he is holding (Trio: "À la faveur de cette nuit obscure").
The men return from the crusade. Isolier reveals himself to count Ory and helps him and his men escape from the castle.
Count Ory – Tenor (coloratura)
Tutor – Bass/Bass-baritone (coloratura)
Count Ory's tutor
Isolier – Mezzo-soprano (lyric coloratura)
Count Ory's page
Raimbaud – Baritone (coloratura)
Count Ory's friend
The countess Adèle – Soprano (coloratura)
Ragonde – Mezzo-soprano/Contralto
Countess Adèle's companion
Alice – Soprano
A peasant girl
1st Knight - Tenor
2nd Knight - Tenor
3rd Knight - Baritone
4th Knight - Baritone
Place of birth: Pesaro, Italy
place of death: Paris, France
Gioachino Rossini was an Italian composer known for shaping the style of Bel canto together with Bellini and Donizetti. He was born in Pesaro in a musical family and started music school in Bologna at the age of 12. His father was a trumpeter and his mother was a singer. During his career he wrote 39 operas, sacred music, chamber music, piano pieces and songs.
Rossini married the singer Isabella Colbran in 1822. It was a difficult marriage. Rossini wrote many roles for her, but her voice gradually declined and she was forced to retire. It put a strain on their relationship. They lived separately from 1830 when Rossini met Olympe Pélissier who was to become his future wife. In 1835 Rossini and Colbran officially divorced and 10 years later he married Pélissier who was his wife until his death. Rossini died in Paris after an unsuccessful operation to treat colorectal cancer at the age of 76.
Rossini was a very productive composer, writing on an average 2 operas per year for 19 years. However, for the last 40 years of his life he didn’t compose a single opera. It’s unknown why he stopped, but perhaps his declining health or financial security thanks to earlier successes gives us a clue. His most popular opera is Il barbiere di Siviglia, one of his many comic operas.
"Give me a laundry-list and I'll set it to music."
He was a celebrity during his lifetime. He suffered from insomnia. He met with Beethoven in 1822.
Most prominent operas
The French libretto was written by Eugène Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson adapted from a comedy they had first written in 1817.
Augustin Eugène Scribe was a French dramatist and librettist. He is known for the perfection of the so-called "well-made play" (pièce bien faite), a mainstay of popular theatre for over 100 years, and as the librettist of many of the most successful grand operas.
Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson, known as Delestre-Poirson was a French playwright and theatre director.
3, 2, 2, 2 - 4, 2, 3, 0
timp, perc, strings
The comedy, which premiered in 1828, was the composer’s final comedy and penultimate work, followed by the dramatic “Guillaume Tell.” As such, it features trademarks of the composer’s oeuvre but also sees him move into more mature and adventurous musical directions.
Aria - Vous que l'on dit sensibl (Adèle)
Trio - (Adèle, Count Ory, Isolier)