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.
Based on Gogol’s fantastical and comic story of the Devil’s antics on Christmas Eve, this magical blend of opera and ballet is brought to vivid life in Francesca Zambello’s colourful production. Magnificent set designs (Mikhail Mokrov) and costumes (Tatiana Noginova), and an excellent, largely Russian cast provide authenticity. Splendid dancing by The Royal Ballet and Cossack dancers completes the spectacle.
In 1974, British choreographer Kenneth MacMillan in turn decided to focus on the two protagonists for an ambitious ballet that could translate the feelings and emotions of two souls abused by the accidents of life and their own personal weaknesses. In short, how a young girl on her way to a convent manages to elope with the young student with whom she has just fallen in love, only to leave him to escape destitution and finally allow herself to be persuaded by her brother Lescaut to yield to the advances of wealthy “protectors”. Accused of prostitution and deported to Louisiana, Manon is rescued by Des Grieux. Driven to murder by Manon’s jailer, he escapes with her into the marshes where the young girl ultimately succumbs. Although sincere, the love that Manon and Des Grieux share for each other cannot stand up to the vagaries of existence. As a result, neither is able to escape moral or social decline. Rather than reuse the score of Massenet’s opera, MacMillan entrusted Leighton Lucas with the task of arranging a series of extracts taken from a selection of the French composer’s operatic, symphonic and vocal scores… The end result was a huge success from its debut performance in London in 1974 onwards.
Gluck‘s wonderful but neglected 1774 opera Iphigénie en Tauride, inspired by the Greek legend, is treated with forceful and convincing simplicity in Klaus Guth‘s revolutionary production staged at the Zurich Opera House. The psychological drama in a tense atmosphere of fears and traumas is underlined by Guth‘s use of huge masks and enclosed spaces. Conductor William Christie and his typically transparent but never cold orchestral sound perfectly match the descriptive elements in Gluck’s score, while the Armenian mezzosoprano Juliette Galstian as a fabulously good Iphigénie, the leading American opera baritone Rodney Gilfry as Oreste and the deceased South African tenor Deon van der Walt as Pylade head a superb cast.