Jump to content

William Tell - It's not just an overture!

whipped guy
This topic is 2827 days old and is no longer open for new replies.  Replies are automatically disabled after two years of inactivity.  Please create a new topic instead of posting here.  

Recommended Posts

As promised in: http://www.companyofmen.org/threads/my-little-pony-2-0-in-which-you-are-the-pony.104945/#post-967662


Guillaume Tell Naxos 8.660363-66


A telling Tell!


This recently released recording of Rossini's final operatic masterpiece has a lot going for it. To begin it is absolutely complete. Actually it is beyond complete as it contains some alternate versions of some of the dance numbers as well the alternate finale to the reduced three act version of the opera. This is all based on the critical edition of the score as published by Ricordi for the Fondazione Rossini in Pesaro. Given that fact it is essential for the Rossini completist. This is especially important because the two other major audio recordings of the original French setting, both originally released on EMI, offer different versions of the score.


The earlier of the two recordings is under Gardelli and features the all star cast of Bacquier, Gedda, and Caballè. It is based on the score as originally published by Troupenas with an additionl aria for Jemmy not included in that original publication. The aria is presented as an appendix and not in its proper position in the score. The second recording under Pappano features the cut version of the score as it was finally presented during it's original Paris production after the opera proved to be overly long. The cuts, many of which were made for non musical reasons, adversely affect portions of the score and especially the final act by completely damaging its form and structure.


In the recording at hand, conductor Antonino Fogliani has had quite a bit of experience conducting Rossini and as such he proves to be quite an asset. Rossini has always brought out the best in him and this recording is no exception. He certainly emphasizes the sweep and majesty of the score. I have always felt that the third act is the weakest of the four acts. However, Fogliani makes more sense out of it than I thought was possible. He favors swifter tempi and that makes all the difference. The additional music in the form of attractive ballet sequences, plus the aforementioned aria for Jemmy properly positioned certainly helps as well. The only place where I feel he significantly overly rushes things is in the tenor's fourth act cabaletta, but the effect is indeed exciting. A bit more rubato would have given the vocal line a more pleasing contour. However, never has the piece sounded so rousing with its military aspects emphasized. Furthermore, he literally pulls out all the stops during the storm that permeates the final scene of the piece. Interestingly with some operas less is more and cuts can be enhancements, but for some reason with this piece the massive structures seem to make more sense when heard in their entirety.


The orchestra and chorus are also first rate as is the sound quality. Being a live recording of a staged performance there are unfortunately a number of extraneous noises. However, they prove to be overly distracting only during the ballet sequences and during the above mentioned tenor cabaletta. At any rate, the sound quality is the most natural sounding of all the recordings that are noted above. This is certainly true of the final moments of the second act where one finally understands why Berlioz singled it out as one of the highlights of the score.


While the performance does not feature special singers of the caliber that Gardelli had at his disposal, I find it to be in general more acceptable than the singing on Pappano's version, which on repeated hearing does not wear as well. Still, I doubt that there will ever be anyone who ever will sing a more ravishing Matilde than did Caballè in Gardelli's version.


Andrew Foster-Williams as Tell exhibits a pleasant if not overly powerful presence, yet he delivers when it counts. However, while he has the title role it it really not the most important part. That belongs to Arnold and here tenor Michael Spryes delivers the goods. The voice is not as distinctive or as full as that of Nicolai Gedda for Gardelli, but is more robust than that of John Osborne for Pappano. Judith Howarth as Matilde has a powerful voice yet is capable of scaling it down reasonably for her second act aria and third act cabaletta. At times the voice tends to spread when placed under pressure, but fortunately not excessively so. The lesser roles are all competently done with special honors going to Artavazd Sargsyan in the small but difficult tenor role of the fisherman and Tara Stafford as Jemmy.


In summary, of the audio recordings of the original French version this one is definitely a contender. I would not want to part with the Gardelli recording which features the best singing, but this recording at its bargain price is more than worth the asking price. Also, except for the reservation noted above I can't overemphasize the excellence of the conducting. I find Gardelli somewhat turgid, and the cuts taken by Pappano eliminate his recording as a first choice. If this were the only recording available I would be absolutely thrilled.


Interestingly the recording itself comes full circle. It begins with Rossini's finest overture and ends with the alternate finale based on the most famous portion of that overture. It must be heard to be believed. I still feel that Rossini's original ending with its repetitions of liberté is more aptly uplifting and inspiring. However, for sheer excitement the revised version gives the original quite a run for its money and deserves to be heard.




In spite of some stellar names associated with recordings of the Italian version of this opera, I would avoid such recordings like the plague. This is a French opera if there ever was one and the Italian language alters and falsifies the contours and flow of the melodies that Rossini lavished on the piece.


Also note that this is also available in a video version, but I doubt that the visual will greatly enhance the experience.


Also note: Decca just released a DVD/BluRay of the recent production from the Rossini Opera Festival. The staging is a controversial Graham Vick production. Still that might just be the video version to own as it features Juan Diego Flórez as Arnold. However, initial reports suggest that one needs to close their eyes while viewing the presentation.


Clips of both video versions are available on YouTube.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Covent Garden are doing a new production of William Tell at the end of June conducted by Pappano. The cast looks solid but not what you would call ''starry''. The production is described as ''contemporary'' which to me rings alarm bells. I had plans to be in London at the time but it is not to be. Good luck to Londoners and visitors who have the opportunity to see it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The London cast is Gerald Finlay, John Osborn (Arnold) and Malin Bystrom.

That's the cast of his recording and similar to the cast at the Ptoms a few years ago also lead by Pappano. Unfortunately he overly cuts the piece. The cuts were sanctioned by Rossini, but because the patrons had to leave early to catch the last transportation out of town. Most of the cuts were not made for musical reasons.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The performances start at 6pm so if this is the cut version what time would a ''complete'' version start?

Well, 6 PM is an early curtain. Perhaps he has changed his thoughts on the piece and is eschewing the cuts? However, the EMI recording is on 3 CD's as opposed to the 4 of other versions. I have a private recording of his Proms performance and that fits on 3 CD's as well. It will be interesting to see how much is actually performed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tell at the MET?


This is the rumor for the MET's 2016-2917 season:


Rossini's Guillaume Tell

Dates: October 16 to November 12

Production: Pierre Audi

Guillaume Tell: Gerald Finley

Arnold: Bryan Hymel

(Co-production with De Nationale Opera)




I bought the Naxos four-CD recording at F.Y.E. in Philly yesterday. Like it, especially the excitement of a live performance.

It has been a long time since I have bought CDs in a store; nice experience.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

You knew it was coming, my take on the new DECCA DVD/BluRay release of Guillaume Tell:


Tell as it should not have been told!

This performance of Rossini's final opera was released on the heels of the recent Naxos Guillaume Tell that is available in both audio and video versions. It's other main competition among virtually complete French versions is the Classic EMI audio only set from the 1970's. While there are complete versions of this piece in Italian translation, the music is so typically French that the Italian language tends to distort its contours. As such a robust Italianate approach should ideally be avoided.


If this were an audio only recording it would have received a higher rating. However, the visual aspects of the production are so off base that I doubt one would want to view it repeatedly after the initial viewing. Personally, I will most likely be listening only to the audio in the future.


The title role is effectively portrayed by a rather rotund Nicola Alaimo. Tell is a larger than life character and the sheer size of the man only serves to reinforce that aspect of his persona. As such, Alaimo is forceful and commanding when required, yet he is able to modulate his voice when he must depict the tormented loving father and spouse. He is almost as good in the role as is Bacquier on EMI and a bit better than Foster-Williams on Naxos.


Juan Diego Flórez sounds glorious as Arnold with his trademark bright, if overly monochromatic, sweet tone. It is consistently like a laser beam of passionate sound. In a sense it is too much of a good thing. The voice is so distinctive that he cuts through the opening ensembles and threatens to overpower Alaimo in their first act duet and so much so that by this point one gets the feeling that the piece should have been billed as Arnold! He really sounds too Italian for this piece where I hear a softer francophone type voice and especially at the phrase "Ah, Matilde..." in that aforementioned duet. Compared to both Gedda (EMI) and Spryes (Naxos), while they both take the high notes in full voice, their sound is softer, rounder, and more in tune with the French language. They also phrase with more nuance. In the subsequent scenes where the warrior comes out in him as opposed to the lover, JDF's approach seems more apt as he morphs into the militant rebel. Furthermore, he phrases the call to arms in his final cabaletta in a quite convincing manner. In summary, JDF certainly does not disappoint. His heroic tone proves to be effective even if it is not in the French manner. While he is more Italianate than ideally should be the case, his ardent approach still works in the final analysis. My only other criticism concerns the fact that his acting seems wooden compared with previous outings, but that may be the fault of the stage director.


Initially soprano Marina Rebeka sounds slightly more robust than Caballé (EMI) or Howarth (Naxos) who both sing with softer tones in "Sombre foret". However, elsewhere she is quite effective and especially in the opening pages of her third act aria. Fortunately she modulates her tone splendidly for the sublime cabaletta that crowns that aria. She embellishes the repeat interestingly. However, her decorations don't really improve on Rossini's original thoughts.


The secondary roles are all done quite well with a special mention to the Jemmy of Amanda Forsythe who gets to sing her often cut third act aria and the Hedwige of Veronica Simeoni. The Gessler of Lucca Tittoto, while fine vocally, is unfortunately portrayed as a total buffoon in this production and that is the fault of the stage director. Only Celso Albelo as the fisherman Roudi slightly disappoints.


This brings us to the staging of Graham Vick, which is typically controversial to say the least. However, it is not thought provoking as some of his previous productions have been. We are in the early Twentieth Century with a unit set that is sparse and frankly ugly. The staging of the second act is indeed hideous with stuffed carousel horses positioned all over the stage. That of the third act is even worse as it takes place in a room with plush furniture, with the ballet a total disaster in an overly and overtly symbolic sort of way. Gessler's hat is a formal top hat and the Swiss are made to crawl under the furniture so as to grovel before it. Even the infamous apple is a green colored Granny Smith! Nothing makes sense! Furthermore Gessler's appearance in the fourth act is frankly risible as if we are suddenly in a Rossini opera buffa and specifically Il Barbiere di Siviglia where Gessler makes a "Don Basilio like" final appearance for one more "Buona sera" only with more fatal results. At the end of each act the curtain rises as opposed to falling. It is again symbolic, but silly. It is unfortunate that the production is so problematic. However, the music carries the day. In fact seeing the ugly set makes its lushness all the more apparent, such is the disconnect. Fortunately Rossini is able to withstand all this abuse and in spite of the ridiculous staging the musical performance that it inspires is still able to move and provoke strong feelings in the listener. That it entrusted to conductor Michele Mariotti who has a fine orchestra and chorus at his disposal certainly helps.


I have always thought of Verdi's Don Carlos as being the most effective French Grand Opera ever composed. Now, after listening to two different uncut performances of Tell in the space of a few short weeks I'm not so sure if Tell is not its virtual equivalent. Only the chorus that introduces the apple scene is a letdown. But then again that might have been intentional as it sets the superficial Austrians apart from their sincerely patriotic Swiss counterparts. It is interesting that the foremost exponents of the style such as Auber and Meyerbeer somehow fall a bit short when compared to their Italian competition.


So unfortunately this is an uneven production. Still, as seen in it's BluRay version the picture quality is outstanding as is the quality of the sound. The aforementioned Naxos is available in both audio and video versions. While I have not seen the video release, clips of the performance don't make me want to view it. It is unfortunate that the current release is not available in an audio only version.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Early in this thread I made reference to a new Covent Garden production of ''William Tell'' noting that the production was described as ''contemporary'' which rang alarm bells. I was more right than I realised. The main problem was in the third act. A scene with Swiss occupying soldiers forcing local women to dance with them including a rape scene with an actress playing a non singing part.

Put Covent Garden William Tell into google and the opening night reviews say it all. A representative sample. George Hall in the ''Stage'' magazine ''the depiction on stage ramped up into a gratuitous gang rape that provoked the noisiest and most sustained booing I can ever recall during any performance at Covent Garden'' with many of the audience leaving the performance early. Tim Ashley in the Guardian described the scene as ''a protracted and pruriently voyeuristic gang rape'' that ''resulted in an immediate reaction of unprecedented anger'' and booing so loud it drowned out the music.

The Royal Opera management are trying to justify the antics albeit with difficulty.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...