Saturday, 17 August 2019

Carry On meets Dads Army in this ebullient lark: Rossini's Comte Ory at the Grimeborn Festival

Rossini: Count Ory - Opera Alegria at Grimeborn 2019 (Photo Zak Kilby)
Rossini: Count Ory - Opera Alegria at Grimeborn 2019 (Photo Zak Kilby)
Rossini Le Comte Ory; Naomi Kilby, Robert Jenkins, Alicia Gurney, Benjamin Newhouse Smith, Lindsay Bramley; Opera Alegria at the Grimeborn Festival
Reviewed by anthony Evans on 13 August 2019 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
Full of verve, spunk and shameless innuendo, an exuberant account of Rossini's late comedy

Opera Alegria returned once more to the Arcola Theatre for this year’s Grimeborn Festival. This was their fourth visit to Grimeborn and following a series of double bills, in previous years, Tuesday 13 August 2019 was the first night of Rossini’s comic opera Count Ory in a new English translation by Musical Director Lindsay Bramley, with Naomi Kilby, Robert Jenkins, and Alicia Gurney directed by Benjamin Newhouse Smith.

Written in 1828 Le Comte Ory is a bit of a mash up. Some of the music comes from Il viaggio a Reims, whilst the French libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson was adapted from a comedy they had written some 11 years previously. Sadly, it doesn’t get an outing very often. Its full of the most irresistible orchestral writing and vocal pyrotechnics. “An excellent piece of folly”
Rossini: Count Ory - Opera Alegria at Grimeborn 2019 (Photo Zak Kilby)
Rossini: Count Ory - Opera Alegria at Grimeborn 2019 (Photo Zak Kilby)


The action centres on the lubricious plans of Count Ory. Disguised as a hermit and then a nun he attempts to wheedle himself into the Countess Adele’s affections whilst her brother is away at war. The libertine Count was sung by Robert Jenkins, Naomi Kilby was his intended victim Adele de Fourmoutiers.

In this updated version set during the Second World War Ory’s page Isolier becomes the tenant farmer Nathaniel sung by Alicia Gurney. Caroline Carragher and Fae Evelyn were Venitia and her God-daughter Alice with Alistair Sutherland as Ory’s tutor Hopkins and Matthew Duncan as Flight Lt. Aubrey Fanshawe. Benjamin Newhouse-Smith was the artistic director. Lindsay Bramley provided the piano accompaniment.

Full of verve, spunk and shameless innuendo the exuberant cast threw themselves into the melee with gay abandon. No stone was left unturned for an easy laugh – and there were plenty. Even Star Wars got a look in. The trouble is, this type of arch campery can only take you so far. Rossini’s music is sparkling and witty but at times it felt stylistically clumsy rather than fluid and supple.

That said, there was plenty to enjoy. Naomi Kilby had a nervy start but her easy voice with its spring-loaded top showed she could be both funny and poignant. The trio of Adele, Venetia and Alice at the top of Act 2 was beautiful. Robert Jenkins had a free sound and was suitably dashing and roguish, even in a veil, but could have done with a little more relaxed vocal flamboyance. Ending with the irrepressible and climactic final trio and a pulse quickening ensemble, it all came off with a suitable bang. Ooh matron.

Rossini: Count Ory - Opera Alegria at Grimeborn 2019 (Photo Zak Kilby)
Rossini: Count Ory - Opera Alegria at Grimeborn 2019 (Photo Zak Kilby)
Rossini: Count Ory
Grimeborn Festival
Arcola Theatre
Tuesday 13 August 2019
Opera Alegria
Adele de Fourmoutiers : Naomi Kilby
Venetia Trumpington-Hewitt : Caroline Carragher
Alice : Fae Evelyn
Count Ory: Robert Jenkins
Flight Lt. Aubrey Fanshawe : Matthew Duncan
Hopkins : Alistair Sutherland
Nathaniel : Alicia Gurney
Mr Smallbone, Mr Hancock & Mr Platt : Ian Massa-Harris, James Schouten & Christopher Killerby
Artistic Director : Benjamin Newhouse-Smith
Musical Director : Lindsay Bramley
Rossini: Count Ory - Opera Alegria at Grimeborn 2019 (Photo Zak Kilby)
Rossini: Count Ory - Opera Alegria at Grimeborn 2019 (Photo Zak Kilby)

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