Le comte Ory (The Count Ory)

Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre - Aotea Centre, Auckland

30/05/2024 - 01/06/2024

St James Theatre, Courtenay Place, Wellington

13/06/2024 - 15/06/2024

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

27/06/2024 - 29/06/2024

Production Details

Composer: Gioacchino Rossini, libretto Eugène Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson
Directed by: Simon Phillips
Production Designer: Tracy Grant Lord
Conducted by: Brad Cohen

New Zealand Opera

A crazy comedy of disguise, seduction and chaos.
A whirlwind blend of silly and sublime, Le comte Ory’s music is bursting with Rossini’s trademark pizzazz, with a contemporary (and very Kiwi) staging by acclaimed Director Simon Phillips and Designer Tracy Grant Lord breathing new life into the work.

Starring a local and international cast, with tenor Manase Latu as the hapless Count Ory, soprano Emma Pearson as Countess Adele, Hanna Hipp, Moses Mackay, Wade Kernot, Andrea Creighton and Tayla Alexander.

Sung in French with English surtitles.
Age advisory: This production of Le comte Ory contains mature themes and content, and is best suited for audiences 16+

30 May & 1 June 2024
Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre
Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland
With Auckland Philharmonia

13 & 15 June 2024
St James Theatre
Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington
With Orchestra Wellington

27 & 29 June 2024
Isaac Theatre Royal
Ōtautahi, Christchurch
With Christchurch Symphony Orchestra

Prices between $25 – $189
Book at www.nzopera.com

Count Ory: Manase Latu
Countess Adele: EmmaPearson
Isolier: Hanna Hipp
Taimbaud: Moses Mackay
Tutor: Wade Kernot
Ragone: Andrea Creighton
Alice: Tayla Alexander

Lighting:: Matthew Marshall
Assistant Director: Matthew Kereama

With the New Zealand Opera Chorus

Opera , Theatre , Comedy ,

2 hrs 45 min (inc interval)

A comedy of disguises

Review by Elizabeth Kerr 17th Jun 2024

Take a beautiful operatic soprano playing a monied lady of privilege, embarking on a relationship with a mezzo soprano whose trouser role has been flipped to fit a sapphic love story; add a serial womanizer in the colours of the Aussie rugby team dressing up as saffron-robed guru to have his way with the heroine; imagine the rest of his team of wannabe Lothario-bros putting aside their gold-and-green kit to infiltrate a women’s wellness spa, dressed as “big-boned” holy sisters; and mix in a yoga class, some dubious sexual politics with inappropriate touching and the contents of the chateau’s wine cellar and you’ll have many of the ingredients of  NZ Opera’s effervescent production of Rossini’s Le Comte Ory

Of course, this is opera, and the most important ingredient is the music. This production offers us both gorgeous bel canto singing, and Rossini’s joyous and witty orchestral accompaniment, the latter played with sprightly style from the pit by Orchestra Wellington under the insightful baton of Brad Cohen, NZ Opera’s General Director. [More]


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NZ Opera delights with fun, fizzing farce

Review by Max Rashbrooke 15th Jun 2024



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A memorable if tacky interpretation delivered with vibrant and inventive spirit 

Review by Francesca Emms 14th Jun 2024

After a fabulous reception from audiences and critics alike for their Auckland performances, my expectations are high at the Wellington opening of New Zealand Opera’s latest production, Le comte Ory.

The action, which technically should take place in 13th century France, has been moved to a wellness retreat in a very recognisable modern New Zealand where the privileged wives and girlfriends are going cellphone-free and finding inner calm while their rugby-playing partners are off on tour. And with the Kiwis out of town, the Aussies (the titular comte Ory their ringleader) have moved in to the AA campsite next door. This lays the foundation for “a crazy comedy of disguise, seduction & chaos”, with some truly delicious vocal performances.

As Adele, object of Ory’s desire, Emma Pearson brings her signature vocal sparkle and dramatic magnetism. The Australian soprano is particularly beloved in Wellington, where she made her home for several years, and some (well, I) now claim her as our own. As a musician she is technically and artistically superb; as an actress she is warm and funny.

As Isolier, the Aussie team’s physiotherapist, in love with Adele, Polish-born mezzo soprano Hanna Hipp is dynamite. Her performance is a masterclass in comedy: intelligent, nuanced, unselfconscious, all while bringing emotional depth and vocal brilliance. 

Manase Latu’s Ory is extremely watchable, swanning around in faux-Buddhist garb. He tackles this difficult role with gusto and beautiful high notes, occasionally underpowered. While Ory is plainly the villain, Latu’s performance manages to bring a cheeky charm to this lecherous character and his seduction attempts.

The Act 1 finale is wonderfully sparkly with many vocal layers and a fabulous appearance from the always excellent NZ Opera Chorus. Overall, the singing from the chorus is exemplary and Orchestra Wellington, conducted by Brad Cohen, sizzles along underneath.

Moses MacKay is a showman with swathes of charisma, playing for laughs. He leads a very entertaining drinking scene in Act 2 surrounded by the men’s chorus dressed as pious washerwomen (or similar) who have infiltrated the female-only wellness centre. The women of the chorus shine in their big scene performing yoga stretches and taking a dip in the spa.

The combination of Tracy Grant Lord (set and costume design) and Matthew Marshall (lighting) is a winning one, delivering a visually satisfying and interesting production. From the rustic station house to the truly gorgeous wellness spa, the sets are beautiful, cleverly designed, and offer dynamic spaces for the performers to play on.

The only low point for me is the updated surtitles that become the lead character of the production and for all the wrong reasons, completely upstaging the singers. The audience’s gaze is constantly flickering to the surtitles – almost panicked, for fear of missing a gag – instead of allowing the performers on stage to tell the story. While a couple of those gags do have me laughing, mostly they’re off-colour or lazy.

Of course it’s always tricky to bring a story like this into a modern era and land it with a post #metoo audience. There are hits and misses with this production. On stage, I see slick satirical choices, but I’m baffled and disappointed by the tacky, dated jokes in the surtitles. It is a strange disconnect. I am disappointed too that Ory doesn’t get as big a come-uppance as he should have. In fact he seems to rather enjoy the ‘torture’ he receives. Without just punishment, I feel robbed of the satisfaction that would have offered.

Admittedly the story is a thin one; the only real moments of sincerity in the opera are when Hipp and Pearson are together. For the most part the characters are unfortunately one-dimensional, prone to slapstick and buffoonery. However Simon Phillips’ lively direction ensures a memorable interpretation of Rossini’s lesser-known work and NZ Opera once again shows its vibrant and inventive spirit with an entertaining night out.


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NZ Opera scores a winning try with its latest production.

Review by Renee Liang 01st Jun 2024

It takes balls to drastically reimagine a revered European classic opera, and even more to imagine the entire thing as an extended rugby metaphor, but NZ Opera scores a winning try with its latest production of Le Comte Ory.

Director Simon Philips shows his colours on the pitch early. The comic villains of the piece, the titular Ory and his scheming sidekick Raimbald, show up in ‘Wallabies’ uniforms just as the All Blacks drop off their wives and girlfriends (WAGs) at a luxury resort while they embark on an international campaign. Exactly why the Wallabies are left out of a tournament involving NZ, South Africa and France is left to audience conjecture, but perhaps it has something to do with the fact that their star forward, Ory, is more of a player who likes to chase skirts.

If none of this is sounding familiar, it’s because Phillips (a Kiwi who has spent most of his professional life in Australia) has completely reimagined Rossini’s 1828 opera. The original was set at the time of the Crusades, with the set up that a bunch of beautiful, chaste women are locked up in a castle by their men while they are away. It is now set in present day Aotearoa, in a luxury faux ‘Chateau’ in the midst of our Southern Alps, and the opposing militias translated into its present day equivalent, national sporting teams.

Philips, renowned for his high production values and fast-paced productions (ATC’s North By Northwest being one), goes hard for the try line here, with teammates Tracey Grant Lord (set and costume design) and Matthew Marshall (Lighting designer) being a solid unit that you could throw a blanket over. Together, they cram as many Kiwiana clichés into the show as they can. The classic roadside dunny and the Southern Alp lodge with all-white interiors and uniformed spa attendants get major shout-outs, while the cast are kitted out in baby-doll negligees and towel headdresses, as well as deliberately gross culturally-appropriated faux Buddhist robes.

The libretto is sung in French, but Phillips, credited in the program as a ‘translator’ of the English surtitles, plays fast and loose with the content. Many many rugby references appear, along with Australasian (?) expressions like ‘bevy of bountiful babes’ and Kiwisms like ‘nek minnit’, prompting many genuine LOLs.

At interval I asked an operatic friend whether the French had been, er, ‘adjusted’ too – but was told that apart from a few word changes here and there, the libretto is sung as originally written. Translation has always been a creative collaboration between the writer and the translator, so although purists may flinch, I personally love this bending of the rules. Phillips’ handling of the ball on modern vernacular (he states in the program that he’s inspired by social media and YouTube) is perfect – at least in the eyes of this Gen X-er.

Talented players, including expats and internationals, take to the field. Manase Latu in the titular role of Comte Ory, comes home to his first captaincy at NZ Opera. His rounded, shimmering tenor is a revelation – it’s utterly convincing that women capitulate when he whispers in their ears. Moses Mackay, perhaps best known to non-opera audiences as NZ’s Bachelor who refused to follow the script and to my kids as one part of their fave group Sol3Mio, is his wingman, setting up the fast passes for the Count. Both Latu and Mackay display a talent for physical comedy, but it is the women – Emma Pearson as Adèle and Hanna Hipp as Isolier – who really win the line out as comic geniuses.

Pearson in her roles of Adèle is convincingly girlish, naive, vulnerable in her celebrity – the classic little girl in a woman’s body – but grows into her womanly powers once she realises she’s in love with Isolier. Hipp – who has sung Isolier in other companies as a male character, clearly relishes the flip Phillips has made to a female and plays the lusty suitor (now a sports physio) with physicality, as well as an impressive abs-baring physique.

The flip of the ‘trouser role’ of Isolier makes for an interesting, modern take on the plot. However this leads to a less than convincing final scene, when Adèle and Isolier are supposed to humiliate Ory. The hapless Ory is tied up with fluffy ropes and ‘tortured’ with ice cubes and candles. I’m told being treated in this way by two attractive women is a dream sexual scenario for the average man, yet the original plot demands Ory beg for mercy and agree to leave immediately. Huh?

Disappointments in this game were few. Unfortunately, the well-known dead zone in the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre persisted despite the recent renovations, with seats including mine affected by dull sound and the singers occasionally unable to be heard  over the orchestra. But I delighted in the fact the singers were largely able to fill the space without amplification – I much  prefer this to the trend towards mic-ing everything. Also, watching 15 opera singers attempt a line-out on stage in the Aotea Centre is a sight that will not soon be forgotten.

Le Comte Ory, brimming with the frothy easy-listening melodies of Rossini and a witty take on Trans-Tasman rivalry, is a sparkling night out. It’s meant to be entertainment and indeed it is. Phillips’ makeover also takes aim at luxury resorts, wellness culture, the cultural appropriation of eastern mysticism, the Kiwi tendency to elevate almost anyone rugby-adjacent to ‘celebrity’ status, trendy Otago farmer’s markets, and the seeking out of gurus/ influencers for advice – first world problems, in other words. But it never labours these points seriously enough to dent the entertainment value.

For me, this game makeover was a winner. The elements all come together, and the committed cast makes it work. (It’s probably not a spoiler that the All Blacks return victorious, and their women too successfully protect their honour on home turf). Hopefully Rossini – whose career was dedicated to entertaining his own, 19th century community, while offering witty observations from his point of view as a gigging artist – would approve. I think it will win hearts around Aotearoa too.


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