The Rossini festival in Pesaro, Italy, which has dedicated many years of scholarship to developing authentic scores of Rossini operas, commissioned a new Graham Vick production of the Italian version of Rossini’s final opera, “Guglielmo Tell”.
(I had seen the French version – “Guillaume Tell” – twice at San Francisco Opera in the 1990s, from which the present Rossini revival might be dated – once conducted by Donald Runnicles, with Chris Merritt as Arnold, Carol Vaness as Mathilde and TImothy Noble as Tell, and once conducted by Patrick Summers with Merritt’s Arnold, Patricia Racette as Mathilde and Jean-Philippe Lafont as Tell. This was, however, my first experience with the later Italian version.)
The first revival of Graham’s production took place at the Teatro Regio Torino. I attended the first performance in Torino.
The 14th century story of the resistance of Swiss cantons to Austrian rule is evoked through a series of spectacular choruses onto which its plot is grafted – a conflicted love affair by a Swiss patriot’s son with the daughter of the cruel Austrian governor, Gesler.
[Below: American tenor John Osborn as Arnoldo Melchtal; edited image, based on a publicity photograph from johnosborn.com.]
Arnoldo has some of the most brilliant and melodic tenor parts in the Rossini canon. John Osborn, who has sung the role in both French and Italian, has recorded it in French.
[For my reviews of Osborn’s live performances of another Rossini opera, see: Deconstructing S.F. Opera’s Super-sized “Barber” – November 12, 2006 and Meachem, Osborn, Tro Santafe Lead a Joyous “Barber” at San Diego Opera – April 21, 2012.]
Osborn’s Arnoldo’s amour is the Matilda of the American soprano Angela Meade. [See Legend Making at the Kennedy Center: Angela Meade’s First Norma – Washington National Opera, March 9, 2013.]
Forcefully, the Swiss leaders Tell, Walter Furst (Mirco Palazzi) and his father Melchtal (Fabrizio Beggi) take on Arnoldo’s ideas of co-operating with the Austrian army, a task made easier when the Austrians murder Arnoldo’s father.
[Below: Soprano Angela Meade was Matilda; edited image of a publicity photograph from angelameade.com.]
The role of Tell, in addition to its waves of melody, has a significant aria Resta, immobile, counseling his son Jemmy (Marina Bucciarelli) to remain perfectly still while he shoots an arrow at an apple on Jemmy’s head. [See Ovations for Oksana Dyka, Dalibor Jenis, James Conlon – “Eugene Onegin”, Los Angeles Opera, September 17, 2011.]
[Below: Slovak baritone Dalibor Jenis was Guglielmo Tell; resized image, based on a publicity photograph.]
Ginandrea Noseda’s Conducting
Bringing the production to Torino was a labor of love for Conductor Gianandrea Noseda, who conducted brilliantly.
[Below: Conductor Gianandrea Noseda; edited image, based on a publicity photograph from teatroregiotorino.com,]
Vick’a production is based on a virtually uncut score, with abundant ballet music left intact.
[Below: British production designer Graham Vick, OBE; edited image, based on a photograph from teatroregiotorino.com. ]
The costume and set design are eclectic, representing both the late medieval period and modern times, with a bevy of old style newsreel cameras and flash photography.
Perhaps the most interesting feature is the use of images of crashing waves in a savage storm that represent the destruction of Gesler.
Gesler is not mourned by his daughter Matilda, who intervenes at a critical moment to inform Gesler that his actions constitute child abuse which is illegal under Austrian law. Matilda switches sides to support the Swiss resistance.
[Below: a scene from Act III of “Guglielmo Tell” taking place in the Austrian governor’s palace; edited image, based on a photograph courtesy of the Teatro Regio Torino.]
At opera’s end, Jemmy leads the way up a highly symbolic staircase.
[Below: a scene from Act IV of “Guglielmo Tell”; resized image, based on a photograph, courtesy of the Teatro Regio Torino.]
I applaud the scholarly work done in Pesaro and elsewhere in support of authentic versions of Rossini’s operas. The performance was graced by excellent choral work, superb conducting and excellent performances by the opera’s principals.