A star is born

By Georgette Gouveia

Something special happens every time my friend, the novelist Barbara Nachman, and I hear Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez. Last year, we saw him in Rossini’s uproarious “Le Comte Ory” in a “Met: Live in HD” simulcast at City Center 15: Cinema De Lux in White Plains. A half-hour before the curtain went up, Flórez had helped welcome his son, Leandro, into the world.

This year, Babs and I decided to see him in person, a Saturday afternoon matinee (Feb. 2) that was The Met radio broadcast. Despite a chest cold, announced before the performance by General Manager Peter Gelb, Flórez sang full out and sounded marvelous. He also obviously relishes playing the roguish Count, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. (Actually more like a rake in a nun’s wimple.)

The big news, however, was South African soprano Pretty Yende, who on Jan. 17 made a sensational Met debut in the part of the Countess Adèle – the principal object of Count Ory’s many affections – at the ripe old age of 27, replacing the ailing Nino Machaidze. The time she had to learn the part: one week.

You’d never know it. From the moment her affectionate, worried Countess walked out on that stage to send her knighted brother off on a Crusade, she owned the role and the house, which awarded her a warm ovation.

Yende has it all – the effortless coloratura, the shimmering top notes, the looks and the commanding charisma, plus a natural acting style that made her Countess affecting.

The opera – an enjoyable confection – is nonetheless tricky. As staged by Bartlett Sher, it revolves around a ménage à trois involving Ory, the Countess and Ory’s page (and rival) Isolier (mezzo Karine Deshayes in a pants role). The uproarious Act 2 bedroom scene is all about two guys and a girl (played by two girls and a guy). The gender-bending – not to mention the blush-colored corsets by costume designer Catherine Zuber – had us swooning with delight.

The Met’s season runs through May 11. While there are no more performances of “Le Comte Ory” this season, there is a DVD of last year’s superb “Live in HD” broadcast, featuring Diana Damrau as the Countess and Joyce DiDonato as Isolier. For more, visit metopera.org or call (212) 362-6000.

Can’t get to The Met? The next “Live in HD” transmission is Verdi’s “Rigoletto” on Feb. 16. For more on The Met, click here .

You can also watch PBS’ “Great Performances at The Met” on Thirteen-WNET, with the next telecast being Verdi’s “Otello” at 8:30 p.m., Feb. 21 with a repeat at 12:30 p.m., Feb. 24.

And last but certainly not least, check out Andrea Kennedy’s take on corsets for V (as in Valentine’s) Day in February WAG. Let’s just say it’s an issue for the Countess Adèle in every woman – and the Count Ory in every man.




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