Opera is back in Seattle. Rossini’s comic opera The Wicked Adventures of Count Ory opens the 2016-17 operatic season at the McCaw hall. The cycle will include also Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, La Traviata, Leoš Janáček’s Katya Kabanova and Mozart’s The Magic Flute. I’m sure it will be an interesting back and forth journey between fantasy and reality.
In a way, Count Ory has a bit of both worlds and also the perk of being a comedy, without on scene deaths and heavy drama. That’s why the choice of this medieval tale as the first bite of the season could not have been more appropriate.
The show has been created by Dan Potra and directed by Lindy Hume. It portrays a colorful but tasteful staging. It seems to be inspired by the puppet shows and fairy tales, but at the same time includes some riskier features, such as a heavy metal touch on the male costumes or the moving clouds, which are used as comic balloons. The overall impression is a simple and well-balanced combination of sweet and sour.
Italian conductor Giacomo Sagripanti faced the difficult acoustics of the venue with a positive attitude and successfully highlighted the differences between the characters. His best moments with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra were the ensemble at the end of Act I and the scene of the storm. Mr. Sagripanti contributed to the quality of the duets and trios yet never reached the bubbling joviality intended by Rossini. The chorus performance was somehow disappointing. Probably, the memory of their remarkable Flying Dutchman some months ago was too recent.
The second cast featured tenor Barry Banks as Count Ory. Although theatrically inspired, his voice did not convince until the second act, when his instrument found a better balance between the vibrant highs and a plain middle register. Perhaps, his most relevant flaw was the lack of imagination on the vocal agilities that are needed to make Count Ory’s game of innuendos understandable. Nevertheless, Mr. Banks efforts were rewarded generously by the Seattleites. His female counterparts, soprano Lauren Snouffer (Countess Adele) and mezzo Stephanie Lauricella (Isolier) showed a better vocal approach to the Rossinian style. Ms. Lauricella was an outgoing and passionate Isolier. We detected in her voice a remarkable difference between the high and the low register. She used such feature smartly to give more credibility to her male role. On the other hand, Lauren Snouffer was the best singer of the evening. She demonstrated a solid command of the style and a strong technique, playing nice trills and controlled high notes, like vocal fireworks. With such arguments, her interpretation received the biggest ovations, especially after her aria in the first act, when Adele feels ready to love again.
Bass Patrick Carfizzi was a solid Tutor, with a loud instrument, despite his sometimes too open emission. Will Liverman (Rimbaud), Maria Zifchak (lady Ragonde) and Jennifer Bromagen (Alice) were effective on scene and solved their parts without problems.
We will also tell in Opera World if Lawrence Brownlee, Sarah Coburn and Hanna Hip, the leading singers of the first cast presented by the Seattle Opera, could offer an even more delightful version of the adventures of this funny libertine.