Le Comte Ory, Dorset Opera Festival, Bryanston

DORSET Opera, which started its life at Sherborne School in 1974, has never performed a Rossini opera until now, in its new home at the Coade Theatre in Bryanston, Blandford. And many will say that the current David Phipps-Davis production has been worth the wait.

Le Comte Ory is a totally barmy story that just gets better with its added intricacies. It’s all about a sex-mad young nobleman intent on storming the chateau of Fourm­outiers, where the women of the town are living in chaste loneliness while their husbands are off fighting the Crusades. First our anti-hero disguises himself as a wise hermit, and then as a holy sister, with his knights as the nuns.

There is absolutely NOTHING politically correct about this production in its view of women – newly deflowered young girls cele­brate with a quick fag, larger ladies are rejected, widows’ mourning gives instantaneously way to lust for a younger man …

But it is huge fun, accentuated by the colourful sets and costumes designed by Steve Howell and Rebecca Hopkins, and energetically sung by Nico Darmanin in the title role, Heather Lowe as his love-smitten page Isolier and Jennifer France (a wonderful Susannah in the recent Garsington Figaro) as the countess Adele, the object of their affection.

The chorus is always a main feature at Dorset Opera, the result of an intensive summer school with participants able to benefit from master classes from the professionals involved in the production. The process not only marshalls the vocal forces, but identifies performers whose stage abilities bring them out of the chorale. In this production it was the three young nuns of the corps de ballet.

The orchestra, conducted by Jose Miguel Esandi, made the most of Rossini’s colourful, if oddly tune-free, music, some of it borrowed by the composer from his Il Viaggio a Reims.

The witty surtitles and a truly hilarious bed scene in the second half sent the audience smiling into the night, after a joyous romp that challenged the DO L’Elisir D’Amore of 2015 for sheer fun. Le Comte Ory has a Saturday matinee on 29th July.

For more information, visit the website, www.dorsetopera.com



Photographs by Fritz Curzon.

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