Opera Review: LE COMTE ORY (Lyric Opera of Chicago)

Post image for Opera Review: LE COMTE ORY (Lyric Opera of Chicago)

by Barnaby Hughes on November 21, 2022

in Music,Theater-Chicago


After two very serious and heavily-plotted Verdi operas, it’s incredibly refreshing to see Rossini’s sexy and riotous Le Comte Ory. This Lyric premiere production boasts a stunning bel canto score, an entertaining and talented cast, a relatively short (by comparison) run-time of 2 hours 40 minutes, and lots of laughs.

Zoie ReamsJoshua Hopkins Lawrence Brownlee Zoie Reams

Set in twelfth-century France, Le Comte Ory’s plot is quite simple. The Count of Formoutiers and his men are away on crusade, leaving his sister Adèle behind to hold down the fort. In the first act, the titular count and notorious rake Ory attempts to seduce Adèle while disguised as a hermit. In the second, he disguises himself as a nun. Ory’s page Isolier, however, succeeds where the count fails. One of the opera’s funniest scenes involves a group of carousing “nuns” nearly caught in the act pretending to pray.

Mirco Palazzi Kayleigh DeckerMirco Palazzi and the company

Bartlett Sher, who last directed Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Lyric in 2016, directs Rossini’s opera as a performance within a performance. Le Comte Ory begins unceremoniously with an open curtain and various actors setting the stage on the stage. This conceit has the happy effect of making the whole production feel rather casual and amateur, though it is clearly not, while amping up the comedy. Sher or revival director Kathleen Smith Belcher make the plot a touch more contemporary by staging Ory’s Act Two seduction as an unforgettably laugh-out-loud threesome with Isolier and Adéle.

Kayleigh Decker Kathryn Lewek Zoie Reams Lawrence BrownleeKathryn Lewek Lawrence Brownlee Mirco Palazzi

Lyric favorite Lawrence Brownlee as the eponymous count leads the youthful cast with his winning smile, playful acting, and soaring tenor. Brownlee is well-matched with Kathryn Lewek, last seen as the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Magic Flute (2016). As Adéle, Lewek shows off her lithe and lissome soprano by performing her role’s virtuosic coloratura with ease and grace.

Kirk OsgoodKathryn Lewek Lawrence Brownlee

If Brownlee and Lewek could be expected to deliver stunning performances, the last minute substitution of first-year Ryan Opera Center member Ian Rucker for Joshua Hopkins (who was ill on opening night) in the role of Ory’s friend Raimbaud was entirely unexpected. And Rucker nailed the role while obviously enjoying the opportunity. The other revelation was Kayleigh Decker as Isolier. She has had many minor roles at Lyric during her time as a Ryan Opera Center member, but none hinted at the talent and presence she could bring to a major role like that of Isolier in  Le Comte Ory. Her mezzo soprano was simply delicious with its clear diction and resonant tone. I would gladly see this production again for Decker alone.

Joshua Hopkins and the companyKathryn Lewek Kayleigh Decker

Credit should be given to Enrique Mazzola, who has conducted Le Comte Ory before, for bringing Rossini’s opera to Lyric for the first time. This reviewer would certainly like to see more bel canto performed at Lyric, and more French operas, not just in the French language, but by French composers. This production easily proves why Rossini was such a wildly successful composer in his time and that Le Comte Ory in particular should be more widely and frequently staged. It’s beautiful, incredibly fun, and highly entertaining. Catch it before it’s gone.

Lawrence Brownlee Kathryn Lewek Kayleigh Decker

photos by Todd Rosenberg

Le Comte Ory
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive
ends on November 26, 2022
for tickets, call 312.332.2244 or visit Lyric Opera

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

Leave a Comment