Rossini’s Guglielmo Tell: Grand Opera Even in Concert Version

United StatesUnited States Rossini, Guglielmo Tell: Teatro Regio Torino Orchestra and Chorus, Gianandrea Noseda(director and conductor), Claudio Fenoglio (chorus master) Isaac Stern Auditorium/Ronald O. Perelman Stage, Carnegie Hall, New York 7.12.2014 (SSM)

Concert Version, translated into Italian from French

[table colwidth=”30|20″]
Guglielmo Tell,Luca Salsi
Arnoldo,John Osborn
Matilde,Angela Meade
Gualtiero,Marco Spotti
Melchtal,Fabrizio Beggi
Jemmy,Marina Bucciarelli
Edwige,Anna Maria Chiuri
Gessler,Gabriele Sagona
Ruodi,Mikeldi Atxalandabaso
Rodolfo,Saverio Fiore
Leutoldo,Paolo Maria Orecchia


Rossini’s Guglielmo Tell is a bear of a work. So much has been written about and provoked by this grand opera: its importance as a precursor of Verdi’s operas, its connection to Rossini’s decision to end his career as a composer of operas, the political debates on its incendiary topics. Whenever it is performed, Guglielmo Tell is touted as a rare production, a first-time-performed-here or first-ever “Complete” version. Granted, it’s not Carmen, but it’s not Bianca e Falliero (a minor Rossini opera) either. Over recent years there have been productions in San Francisco,  Munich, Pesaro, Amsterdam, Geneva, Cardiff and Wichita.

Many reasons have been posited as to why there have been fewer performances of an opera that is generally considered Rossini’s greatest work. The four-hour lenGuglielmo Tellh is often mentioned, but this has never been a real issue with Wagner’s four-plus Die Meistersinger or the even longer Rienzi. Detractors talk about the complexity of the text. Which operas plots aren’t complex? Handel’s Tamerlano? Beethoven’s Fidelio? It might not seem an issue now but Rossini’s reputation was strongly based on his comic operas: operas that were subtitled various combinations of farcia, giocoso, melodramma, commedia and buffo. Would an audience come to a serious dramatic opera written by a composer of fun operas?

The opera’s performance history, its successes and failures, were also dependant upon the times. Its main topic is one that it is politically sensitive to this day: the rights of people to bear arms against a tyrannical leader or an occupying country. In this particular scenario, it is Switzerland rebelling against the Austrian occupation. In periods of political repression, Guglielmo Tell had few performances. It was considered inflammatory by the powers that be. When the political climate favored separatist policies, there was more freedom to stage revivals.

The score for Guglielmo Tell, both vocally and instrumentally, is tremendously demanding, and Noseda made no attempts to minimize the difficulties. It was clear that the orchestra had been drilled to reach such a high level of playing. Noseda’s ambition has been to make the Turino Orchestra a world class ensemble and, after seven years, this is exactly what they have become.

The famous overture was driven forcefully to its conclusion with no sense of the final section having the long hackneyed history that makes it the darling of inappropriate usage. There had been much anticipation preceding the performance. Perhaps some of it was the realization that this time when the overture ended, it would have been just what it was meant to be: the opening to the performance that followed.

The singers were all solid and to say that is no light compliment. John Osborn in the role of Arnoldo sang a glorious “Corriam ! Voliam !” and “Troncar suoi,”  both with a gaggle of high Cs. Luca Salsi sang a heartbreaking “Resta immobile.” Although not appearing until the second act and having only a few arias to sing, Angela Meade as Mathilde sang on a different level: one that was more potent than any of the other vocalists.

There is little flexibility in a concert version as to where to go when not singing. In most that I’ve seen, soloists sit on chairs on both sides of the stage. Here they walked off the stage when not performing. It might have been less distracting had the soloists stayed on stage.


Stan Metzger       




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