As I write the audience at the Metropolitan Opera’s first production of Rossini’s Le Comte Ory are leaving their seats during the first interval. So far it has been warmly received, but a distinguished scholar, renowned for his critical editions of Rossini’s work while he was resident music god at the Rossini Opera Festival in Persaro, is throwing a well-aimed spanner into the works:
The scholar and editor Philip Gossett is an expert on early-19th-century Italian opera, particularly the works of Verdi and Rossini. So naturally, the Metropolitan Opera asked him to write program notes for its première production of Rossini’s penultimate opera and last comedy, “Le Comte Ory,” which will be carried live on Saturday in an HD transmission to movie theaters and on the Met’s radio network.
Mr. Gossett refused. He did not want to be associated with the Met production, and he has not been reticent about explaining why.
He strongly objected to the Met’s decision to use the standard edition of the opera, prepared by Eugèné-Théodore Troupenas and published in 1828, the year “Ory” received its première at the Paris Opera. Mr. Gossett considers this a butchered edition, seemingly intended for a “provincial opera house that couldn’t perform the music Rossini wrote,” as he explained in an essay for Das Bärenreiter-Magazin.
For many decades the Troupenas edition, with various tweaks, was all that opera houses had available. But now there is a new scholarly version, edited by Damien Colas, based on recently discovered original performing materials. The volume is part of a Bärenreiter project to publish the complete operas of Rossini in scholarly editions, with Mr. Gossett as general editor. (He is also the general editor of a continuing series of the Verdi operas in scholarly editions from University of Chicago Press.)
The new edition of “Le Comte Ory” had a successful tryout in January at the Zurich Opera with Javier Camarena as the libidinous Count Ory and Cecilia Bartoli as the woman he pursues, Adèle, a countess in France during the Crusades. So if the Zurich company cared enough to use the latest sources, which Mr. Gossett considers revelatory, why not the Met?
The Met’s artistic staff has the “greatest respect for Mr. Gossett’s work,” a company spokesman said. But he added that the new edition, which has yet to be published, was “not available in time” to be used for this production, which is directed by Bartlett Sher and stars the tenor Juan Diego Flórez as Ory and the soprano Diana Damrau as Adèle.