Gioacchino Antonio Rossini

Rossini - Le Comte Ory - Glyndebourne Festival Opera

Le comte Ory is a comic opera written by Gioachino Rossini in 1828. Some of the music originates from his opera Il viaggio a Reims written three years earlier for the coronation of Charles X. The French libretto was by Eugène Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson adapted from a comedy they had first written in 1817.

The work is ostensibly a comic opera in that the story is humorous, even farcical. However, it was devised for the Opéra rather than for the Théâtre de l'Opéra-Comique and there are structural inconsistencies with the contemporary opéra comique genre: whereas the latter consists of relatively short lyrical numbers and spoken dialogue, Le Comte Ory consists of "highly developed, even massive musical forms linked by accompanied recitative. Although the opera contains some of Rossini's most colorful orchestral writing, the quaint, brief overture is oddly restrained and unassuming, ending with a whisper of pizzicato strings.



Comic opera written by Gioachino Rossini.
The French libretto was by Eugène Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson


Count Ory
La Comtesse Adèle
1st Knight
2nd Knight
3rd Knight
4th Knight
Chorus of Ory's men, ladies, crusaders, peasants


Time: Circa 1200, during the Crusades
Place: Touraine

Premiere Cast, 20 August 1828



The countryside before the castle of Formoutiers

The opera opens with a lively overture. The curtain rises on a country landscape. In the background can be seen, to the left, the Château of Formoutiers, with its drawbridge, and to the right woods, through which can be seen the entrance to a hermitage. Count Ory's friend Raimbaud, his knight's clothing hidden under a cloak, urges Alice and the peasants on, as they prepare flowers to greet the hermit. The girls hope to hear about their future husbands. Raimbaud tells them to include in their offerings to the hermit some flagons of good wine. Ragonde appears from the château, seeking to know the reason for such apparent celebration, when the Countess is so unhappy, and her people should be sad with her. The Countess plans that day to visit the hermit to relieve her of her sorrow. The peasant girl Alice thinks this an inspiration from heaven, and Ragonde asks whether the hermit can give them hope. Raimbaud re-assures her that many a widow has found her husband, thanks to him, and Ragonde looks forward to his help.


Count Ory, disguised as a hermit, and with a long beard, enters, wishing prosperity on their prayers and the peace of heaven; he promises to accommodate families, and give husbands to girls. Ragonde approaches him, greeted by the Count with some reservation. The villagers mill round the Count, and Ragonde urges them to speak one after the other, not all at once. One man wants his wife to be sensible in his house, Alice wants to marry handsome Julien, and Ragonde wants her husband back. The Count invites the girls to his cell, as the peasants, encouraged by Raimbaud, ask for tenderness, youth, and wealth. Ragonde explains that while their husbands are reaping garlands of victory in Moslem lands, their faithful partners, although in their prime, have sworn to pass their period of widowhood in the Château of Formoutiers; the brother of the Countess has followed to the wars, and now she wants to consult the hermit. The Count is secretly delighted, declaring aloud his duty to help her and telling the assembled peasants that he will fulfil their wishes. As they leave, the Count's tutor appears, with the Count's page, Isolier. The tutor objects to the course on which their journey has led him, while Isolier tells him that he has his own reasons; he wants to see his lovely cousin, whose château stands there, but rather than return his affection, she has closed her castle and her heart to love. The tutor sits exhausted; the Prince, Count Ory's father, has told him to find his son, this demon incarnate, who has made off from the court without permission. Isolier, to himself, thinks this was for some new adventure.

The tutor finds little benefit in his position, always watching, always in fear, following his charge into whatever difficulties he may meet. They are joined by the peasants returning from the hermitage, praising the holy man. When he sees the girls, the tutor suspects that the Count is not far off; he guesses that the hermit might be the Count. Alice tells him that the hermit has been there a week, which fits the period of the Count's absence.  He asks Alice where he can see the hermit, and she tells him that he will be there in a moment, as the Countess wants to see him, news that is welcome to Isolier. The tutor leaves, to find again the rest of his escort, while Isolier dreams of enlisting the hermit's aid, to overcome the proud virtue of his beloved. He greets the supposed hermit, who now appears, recognising his page. Isolier regards this recognition as a sign of the hermit's wisdom and hands him money. The Count tells Isolier to explain matters to him.

Isolier tells him that he is in love with a lady of high estate and thought he had been pleasing to her, but is now spurned; until the return of her brother from the crusades she will let no man enter the castle. He wants to know how to gain admittance and had thought of disguising himself as a pilgrim, a plan that the Count finds very fitting, seeing in Isolier a treacherous rival. Isolier, however, needs the hermit's help; when the Countess comes to consult him, he must tell her that her suffering is caused by her indifference and she must love, to be cured. The Count concurs, noting only that the Countess must love him.

The Countess appears, accompanied by Ragonde and the ladies from the château, with peasants and vassals standing behind. The Countess is surprised to see Isolier, who tells her of his intention to consult the hermit, while this last promises counsel and prayers for all those in misfortune. The Countess approaches Count Ory. She tells him of her silent suffering, as she hopes only for the tomb, seeking a cure for her malady. Isolier and the people echo her request. The Count promises her relief, if she casts aside her indifference and turns to new love. The Countess has vowed eternal widowhood, but the Count absolves her of her vow, at which she declares that now she can love Isolier again, thanking the hermit for his intervention, to the approval of Isolier and the villagers. The Count, however, takes the opportunity to warn the Countess against Isolier, who is the page of the notorious Count Ory. She invites the hermit to enter the château, leading him by the hand, and followed by her ladies. At this moment the Count's tutor appears, with his escort of knights. They see and recognise Raimbaud, and the tutor at once recognises the Count. The women are terrified, the peasants indignant, as Count Ory reveals himself.

In the act finale the peasants continue to express their anger and the Count his annoyance that his tutor has upset his plans, while the tutor produces a letter from the Count's father announcing the news of the end of the crusade and the imminent return of the crusaders, which delights the women; the letter tells the Count to return at once to the court. All express their feelings at this announcement, but the Count has another trick up his sleeve, while Isolier is duly cautious, watching for the Count's next move.


Rossini - Le comte Ory - acte I
Le Comte Ory: Rockwell Blake;
La Comtesse Adèle: Alexandrina Pendatchanska
Isolier: Cristina Sogmaister
Raimbaud: Alessandro Corbelli
Le Gouverneur : Michele Pertusi
Dame Ragonde: Silvia Mazzoni
Alice: Anna Carnovali
Un chevalier: Iorio Zennaro
Autre chevalier: Angelo Nardinocchi
conductor: Bruno Campanella
director: Jerome Savary
Torinoo, Teatro Regio, february 1999


A large room in the castle

In her chamber the Countess sits, with her ladies, suitably occupied with their sewing and other tasks. They are secure in their seclusion, a protection against evil-doers. The Countess, who is embroidering a scarf, still trembles at the thought of the terrible Count Ory, cruel enemy of innocence, and Ragonde exclaims at the Count's effrontery in impersonating a holy man. As they continue to express their satisfaction in their tranquil seclusion, the sound of a storm is heard, now bursting out with greater force. The women are afraid of the thunder. The Countess remarks on the hail and rain that shake the castle windows, while Ragonde thanks heaven that they are sheltered. The Countess is sad when she thinks of the fate of poor pilgrims, and at this moment voices are heard of people seeking shelter in the castle.

The Countess tells Ragonde to see who is in need of help, something that she will never deny. The women pray for the cessation of the storm, while the voices of those pleading for shelter, in fact Count Ory and his knights disguised as female pilgrims, are heard. Ragonde returns in some agitation, telling the Countess that the pilgrims are pleading for protection from Count Ory; there are fourteen of them, about forty years in age, and of unattractive appearance, a further sign of the Count's turpitude. Ragonde has ushered them into the parlour, but one of them has sought conversation with the Countess. She ushers the Count in.


The Count offers his respects to the Countess, who is happy to have apparently defeated the Count's plans. He takes her hand and presses it to his lips, behaviour that she finds excessive, while re-assuring the pilgrim of her safety, and telling her that Count Ory would only receive contempt if he were to declare his love for her. She goes on to express her preference for a sincere lover rather than some over-bold seducer. The Count, however, has hopes of conquering her resistance. They are joined by the other supposed pilgrims, as the Count remembers just in time to correct the gender of his introduction of them. The Countess offers them milk and fruit, in thanks for which the Count again kisses the Countess's hand, as she leaves her guests to their modest repast.

The men, their knightly accoutrements ill concealed beneath pilgim cloaks, are pleased at their success, while the tutor urges caution. The Count credits Isolier with the plan for abducting the Countess, something, the tutor adds, for which heaven will punish him. They sit to eat, although the tutor regrets the lack of wine. Raimbaud appears, carrying a basket ready to share in the adventure. He has searched the château and discovered the owner's wine-cellar, which he has raided, making his escape as he heard someone coming; but no matter, he has brought them his booty, which the knights set about sharing. The Count encourages his men to drink. The knights celebrate, happy to drink good wine and to indulge in pleasure and love, drinking the health of the lord of the manor, now fighting the Turks and Saracens.

Ragonde appears, coming to see if the pilgrims have what they want, causing the knights to hide their bottles, as they put on airs of piety and gratitude. The Countess and Ragonde return, with several women carrying torches, leading the men to assume their air of piety and gratitude once more, to the admiration of the Countess, who bids them retire for the night, and the Count wishes that soon he may be able to express his gratitude. The men take the torches from the women and retire. As the Countess takes off her veil, there is the sound of a visitor at the gate, a page, Ragonde sees, looking down from a window. The Countess finds the presence of a man over-bold, and glares at Isolier, as he enters. He brings news of the return of the crusaders that night, at midnight, intending to surprise the women. Isolier has been told by his master, the Duke, that the women ought to be forewarned, to avoid any sudden shock. Ragonde says that she must tell their guests, fourteen good women escaping from the pursuit of Count Ory. Isolier asks if these people are pilgrims and reveals that they must be Count Ory and his friends, in disguise. The women are distraught, particularly in view of the imminent return of their husbands. They scatter, while Isolier puts out the lamp and dons the veil that the Countess had discarded. He sits on the sofa, signalling to the Countess to stand near him.

The Count comes out of his room, ready for love. The Countess, standing by the sofa, is terrified, and Isolier sees the Count confused by the night and silence. Instructed by Isolier, she asks who it is, and the Count announces himself as Sister Colette, unable to sleep and wanting to be with her. He approaches Isolier, whom he mistakes for the Countess, taking his hand and pressing it to his heart. Following Isolier's suggestion, the Countess seems to accept the gesture, and each expresses his feelings, the Countess her fear, the Count his hope of love, and Isolier his fear and hope. The Countess tells Sister Colette to go back to her room, but the Count is resolved to stay, kneeling and declaring his love and embracing Isolier. At this moment a bell sounds and a fanfare of trumpets is heard at the castle gates. The women rush into the room, carrying torches. The Count asks what is happening, and Isolier reveals himself, telling the Count, who threatens him, to fear, rather Isolier's father, who has returned. The tutor, Raimbaud and Count Ory's knights are now seen behind bars, taken prisoner.

In the finale the Countess tells them to hear the cries of victory, brought home for love and in glory. The Count and his men withdraw, as Isolier opens a secret door to allow them to escape. At the same moment the Duke and the crusaders returning from Palestine enter, preceded by their squires, carrying banners and arms. Ragonde and the others rush into the arms of their husbands and the Countess into those of her brother. Isolier kisses the hand of the Count of Formoutiers, who embraces him as all sing in praise of the gallant knights, hymning again the glory of victory and the power of love.

Rossini - Le Comte Ory - acte II
Le Comte Ory: Rockwell Blake;
La Comtesse Adèle: Alexandrina Pendatchanska
Isolier: Cristina Sogmaister
Raimbaud: Alessandro Corbelli
Le Gouverneur : Michele Pertusi
Dame Ragonde: Silvia Mazzoni
Alice: Anna Carnovali
Un chevalier: Iorio Zennaro
Autre chevalier: Angelo Nardinocchi
conductor: Bruno Campanella
director: Jerome Savary
Torinoo, Teatro Regio, february 1999

Rossini - Le Comte Ory - Final scene, in 1830


Conquest of the Eastern Orthodox city of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204

The Crusades were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period. The most commonly known Crusades were the campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean aimed at recovering the Holy Land from Muslim rule, but the term "Crusades" is also applied to other church-sanctioned campaigns, such as the crusade against the Cathars and the Baltic Crusades. These were fought for a variety of reasons including the suppression of paganism and heresy, the resolution of conflict among rival Roman Catholic groups, or for political and territorial advantage. At the time of the early Crusades the word did not exist, only becoming the leading descriptive term around 1760.

In 1095, Pope Urban II called for the First Crusade in a sermon at the Council of Clermont. He encouraged military support for the Byzantine Empire and its Emperor, Alexios I, who needed reinforcements for his conflict with westward migrating Turks colonizing Anatolia. One of Urban's aims was to guarantee pilgrims access to the Eastern Mediterranean holy sites that were under Muslim control but scholars disagree as to whether this was the primary motive for Urban or those who heeded his call. Urban's strategy may have been to unite the Eastern and Western branches of Christendom, which had been divided since the East–West Schism of 1054 and to establish himself as head of the unified Church. The initial success of the Crusade established the first four Crusader states in the Eastern Mediterranean: the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the County of Tripoli. The enthusiastic response to Urban's preaching from all classes in Western Europe established a precedent for other Crusades. Volunteers became Crusaders by taking a public vow and receiving plenary indulgences from the Church. Some were hoping for a mass ascension into heaven at Jerusalem or God's forgiveness for all their sins. Others participated to satisfy feudal obligations, obtain glory and honour or to seek economic and political gain.

The two-century attempt to recover the Holy Land ended in failure. Following the First Crusade there were six major Crusades and numerous less significant ones. After the last Catholic outposts fell in 1291 there were no more Crusades but the gains were longer lasting in Northern and Western Europe. The Wendish Crusade and those of the Archbishop of Bremen brought all the North-East Baltic and the tribes of Mecklenburg and Lusatia under Catholic control in the late 12th century. In the early 13th century the Teutonic Order created a Crusader state in Prussia and the French monarchy used the Albigensian Crusade to extend the kingdom to the Mediterranean Sea. The rise of the Ottoman Empire in the late 14th century prompted a Catholic response which led to further defeats at Nicopolis in 1396 and Varna in 1444. Catholic Europe was in chaos and the final pivot of Christian–Islamic relations was marked by two seismic events: the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453 and a final conclusive victory for the Spanish over the Moors with the conquest of Granada in 1492. The idea of Crusading continued, not least in the form of the Knights Hospitaller, until the end of the 18th century but the focus of Western European interest moved to the New World.

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