The activities in this guide address various aspects of Le Comte Ory:
the archetypal “confidence man” or “con man” character represented by Count Ory
Rossini’s mastery of musical expression, whether in conveying the complications of human relationship or bringing a thunderstorm to the opera stage
the production as a unified work of art, involving creative decisions by the artists of the Metropolitan Opera
the broader ethical questions raised by the behavior of characters in the opera
The guide is intended to cultivate students’ interest in Le Comte Ory whether or not they have any prior acquaintance with opera. It includes activities for students with a wide range of musical backgrounds, seeking to encourage them to think about opera—and the performing arts in general—as a medium of entertainment and as creative expression.
The Confidence Man:
A Close Look at the Characterization of Count Ory
The title character of Le Comte Ory is a scoundrel, but the kind of scoundrel who makes audiences laugh, not cringe. That is due in part to his understanding of human nature and his manipulation of others’ foolishness. He is a con man, or confidence man—a familiar subject of fiction and the performing arts, and a source of perennial fascination. How exactly does a con artist get his way (or, in the case of Count Ory, try to get his way)? That’s what students will determine in this two-part classroom activity. They will:
use excerpts from the opera to develop their own assessment of Count Ory
analyze brief scenes to identify Count Ory’s trickster methods
listen closely to Rossini’s music to understand how both words and music contribute to Ory’s characterization
prepare their own “pro” or “anti” con-man media, explaining how a man like Count Ory plies his trade
This activity assumes students are not yet familiar with the story of Le Comte Ory, since the first part of the activity asks them to guess which of four characters is Ory.