Rossini's 'William Tell' From the Royal Opera House

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Monday, August 03, 2015

A scene from Rossini's 'William Tell' at the Royal Opera House A scene from Rossini's 'William Tell' at the Royal Opera House (ROH)

Join us Saturday at 1 pm, for what has been the most talked-about opera production of 2015: Italian director Damiano Michieletto's update of Rossini's William Tell, in which the classic tale of the 14th-century Swiss hero is set amid the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. 

The Royal Opera House production drew strong reactions when it premiered June 29, largely because of a third-act rape scene with nudity. The opera house issued an age restriction to movie theater audiences soon afterwards and explained that Michieletto's intent is to "convey the horrible reality of warfare."

Radio audiences, of course, will have a very different experience of the production, which stars baritone Gerald Finley as William Tell. The character longs to free the Swiss people from the oppressive Austrian occupation, but when arrested, he must put his trust in fellow young patriots Arnold (tenor John Osborn) and his Austrian lover Mathilde (soprano Malin Byström) to lead the fight.

The production includes Michielotto’s inventive highlights such as the Act II trio "Quand l'Helvétie est un champ de supplices" and the Act III aria "Sois immobile" which evoke the striking grandeur and suspense of the Swiss setting. The opera is sung in French.

CAST

Guillaume Tell: Gerald Finley
Arnold Melcthal: John Osborn
Mathilde: Malin Byström
Walter Furst: Alexander Vinogradov
Jemmy: Sofia Fomina
Hedwige: Enkelejda Shkosa
Gesler: Nicolas Courjal
Melcthal: Eric Halfvarson
Rodolphe: Michael Colvin
Leuthold: Samuel Dale Johnson
Ruodi: Enea Scala

Conductor:Antonio Pappano
Director: Damiano Michieletto

Comments [6]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

To my taste, the opera sounds better in the Italian version. Also, the stentorian fach sounds better for the 8 high Cs, including the duet with MATHILDE and ARNOLDO's Aria and stretta in the last act. Light tenor voices do not evoke the thrill of a powerful voice singing a mesa di voce on high Cs. GERALD FINLEY in the role of GUILLAUME TELL steals the show with his beautiful virile timbre and well-produced singing voice. My being a Wagnerian heldentenor may of course influence my judgment. I will sing an ALL-WAGNER solo concert on Saturday October 17th in New YORK repriesing fourteen selections from my 2 three hour long solo ALL-WAGNER concerts in the main hall, the Isaac Stern Auditorium, of Carnegie Hall. The venue and the selections will be announced next month. www.WagnerOpera.com

Aug. 08 2015 07:06 PM
Concetta Nardone from Nassau

I demand equal time for the Spike Jones version of the overture with the gargling.

Aug. 08 2015 01:27 PM
Concetta Nardone from Nassau

The finale of this opera is gorgeous. As for the updating, sure why not the Balkans? The crappy production of Macbeth looked like it was moved to the Balkans despite the fact that there is music for the bagpipes written by Verdi. Cornamusa.
Warning: this opera is very long.

Aug. 08 2015 11:07 AM
Bernie from UWS

I think modern updates can be done effectively if all of the moving parts are in alignment. If the concept is rooted in the libretto and score and not tacked on unthinkingly, then yes, something like the Balkans war can be an interesting backdrop. It all depends on how it's done. After all, plenty of stagings of Shakespeare have been set in modern times and Shakespeare is no less for it. As for the aforementioned rape scene, well it's in a ballet sequence, so I'd need to know more about how that scene was conceived originally. But it could work for me if the libretto implied it.

Aug. 08 2015 07:10 AM

OMG, not another relocation pretending to be an update. So very, very sick of seeing endless Nazis or other 20th and 21st Century boogie men forced upon perfectly good historical stories which have an appropriate time and an intelligible place in history. Just because they are teaching less and less history in schools these days does not mean we need something clad in recent garb to make it tangible, comprehensible and effective --on the contrary! Intelligent people are able to extrapolate from history to parallel issues and events in their own times if they give something a little thought without being beat over the head with some story forced into a new and often incongruous era (incongruous to all except the desperate, egomaniacal director and his team). The Royal Opera House Covent Garden seems to have been infected with quite a wave of Eurotrash and sensationalism lately that has taken them far from the classical, retrained and deeply authentic productions one would hope for. And they are seriously misjudging their audiences, like the Met is doing here in New York, if they think people like this sort of nonsense and insulting garbage --especially at increased, outrageous prices. The provocative headlines may bring in some curiosity seekers and attract some trend chasers, but the cheap pandering, vulgarity and misinterpretations are driving away many more of the longterm, traditional supporters and subscribers who will never come back. It is always so easy to bust something, blow it up and bring it all down than to elevate, enhance, refine and build a thing up, as ISIS shows us daily. Why do we tolerate so many artistic terrorists blasting and strangling our classics to shreds these days? Are they so bereft of new material to expound their crude aggressions on or to demonstrate their brutal dynamics and disrespect both for the original artists and audiences alike ?

Aug. 07 2015 05:17 PM
Sanford Rothenberg from Brooklyn

This performance should prove interesting for audience reaction,as well as for the performance itself.The stage action which precipitated the "unprecedented booing" was toned down for subsequent performances,and the reviews have been favorable for the musical values of the production.As stated previously on these pages,this opera is long overdue for revival at the MET,and an opportunity to present this work with Nicolai Gedda and/or Luciano Pavarotti as Arnold (Arnoldo in the Italian version) was missed.That pivotal tenor role is here sung by John Osborn, who along with Bryan Hymel,are the tenors of choice for this part.Arnold,first sung by Adolphe Nourrit(the original Comte Ory, and Eleazar in "La Juive")has been sung by stentorian tenors like Tamagno,Martinelli,and Lauri-Volpi,but in recent times has been sung by lighter voices.

Aug. 07 2015 09:22 AM

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