Saturday, October 18, 2008

ROSSINI : GUILLAUME TELL

Rossini's William Tell

Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 23rd of November at 6 - 10 pm
Sunday 19th of October 2008 at
3 - 7.10 pm

INTRODUCTION
COMPOSER
BACKGROUND
SYNOPSIS
LIBRETTO French
LIBRETTO Italian

ROSSINI: William Tell, opera in 4 acts (and 4 hours)
Switzerland, 13th century
William Tell.................... Dalibor Jenis
Hedwige........................... Anna Maria Chiuri
Jemmy.............................. Erika Grimaldi
Mathilde........................... Angela Meade
Arnold.............................. John Osborn
Melcthal........................... Fabrizio Beggi
Gessler............................. Luca Tittoto
Walter.............................. Mirco Palazzi
Ruodi................................ Mikeldi Atxalandabaso
Leuthold........................... Ryan Milstead
Rodolphe.......................... Luca Casalin
Hunter.............................. Giuseppe Capoferri
Teatro Regio Chorus & Orch/Gianandrea Noseda  
(recorded in the Teatro Regio, Turin by Italian Radio)

2008
Tell, Swiss patriot, baritone…………………...Gabriel Bacquier
Hedwige, Tell's wife, soprano……………...Jocelyne Taillon
Jemmy, Tell's son, soprano…………….….Mady Mesplé
Gessler, governor of Schwitz and Uri, bass….Louis Hendrikx
Mathilde
(Princess Matilda) his daughter….Montserrat Caballé
Arnold, her Swiss suitor, tenor………………..Nicolai Gedda
Melchthal, Arnold's venerable father, bass…..Gwynne Howell
Walter Furst, bass, ………………..Kolos Kovacs
Rodolphe, captain of G's guard……………..Ricardo Cassinelli
Ruedi, Pêcheur (fisher), tenor………………Charles Burles
Leuthold, shepherd, bass……………...Nicholas Christou
Chasseur (hunter), ……………...Leslie Fyson
Ambrosian Opera Chorus, Royal Philharmonic,
Lamberto Gardelli (EMI CMS 7 69951)
French is the original language of this opera, the last of Rossini's 39, because it was first performed at the Paris Opera house in 1829 (and therefore includes a ballet, ruining the dramatic tension but also prolonging the agony of the bottoms on seats). When it found its way into Italy, translated into Italian, it had the usual problem with the censors: an Austrian prince is oppressing the Swiss, and the Italians know all about that! In Milano it was William Wallace (not Tell), and the action was moved to Scotland; in Roma it became Rudolph of 'Sterlinga', and later Judas Maccabeus!

It was based on Friedrich Schiller's German drama Wilhelm Tell (1804), and he was the poet who wrote the Ode to Joy used in the Beethoven's ninth symphony; the composer, and the conductor Leonard Bernstein at a concert at the broken Berlin wall, saw it as Freiheit (freedom) as much as Freude (gladness). Both liberation and joyfulness abound in Rossini's opera.

Central to the story is Tell's refusal to bow to the tyrant Gessler's hat, and so he and his son Jemmy are put to the test: Tell shot an arrow in the air (from his crossbow) and it fell to earth ... with an apple attached to it, revealing the gravity of the situation. In the end, another of his arrows will pierce Gessler's rotten core.

Collected above is an assortment of aids to understanding the opera (none of them from the NY Metropera, because they have not done it in this millennium). (PS: and they would not let us have access to it now, anyway.)

The French version to be broadcast in 2008 (a recording made in London in 1973) is conducted by Lamberto Gardelli, and has Montserrat Caballé, notice carefully and gratefully; it will be preceded by an appreciation of this divine diva from Spain. There is a video documentary of her life and work available, which includes her singing Casta Diva divinely in a performance of Norma in a windy arena.

My only audio version is the one from 1980, conductor Riccardo Chailly, with the same Ambrosian chorus, and the following soloists (and this list of celebrated singers gives one reason why Tell does not make an appearance on opera house stages): Pavarotti, Freni, Milnes, Ghiaurov, Tomlinson, Ferruccio Mazzoli, Elizabeth Connell, Della Jones, Richard van Allan, Piero de Palma.

Everybody knows the overture, or at least its finale (which has been a lone ranger at times). To my mind it echoes Beethoven's Pastoral symphony (number 6) starting with the beauty of nature, then a storm, followed by the horn calling the cows home (ranz des vaches, here on an 'English' cor); its ending represents the uprising and chase, reminiscent of Wagner's Rienzi overture.

The essential background to the drama is that the Austrian tyrant dominating the Swiss people, namely Ges(s)ler, has a sister, Princess Mathilde von Hapsburg, and she has been saved from drowning by Arnold, who happens to be the son of Melcthal, a venerable Swiss leader. Mathilde and Arnoldo are in love, secretly, and so it is Romeo and Juliet all over again.

At Burglen, on the shore of Lake Lucerne, the people are happy enough under a serene sky, doing their work as homage to the Creator of the universe. (This is one tune I recognize, because I have a recording of it which includes my own voice.) It is a wedding day for coupling a couple of couples.

Eventually is heard the sound of horns (French horns, this time) giving forth 'le ranz des vaches', the music of the cowkeepers in the mountains.

More jolly horns announce the presence of Gessler, at the chase, and there is a patriotic fugitive being hunted down by the relentless Austrian army.



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