Grand Opéra in the Black Forest, or Guillaume Tell in Bad Wildbad

gtWhat to say about Rossini’s Guillaum Tell that has not already been said?
Rossini’s swan song….The first Grand Opéra (after la Muette) and still regularly performed today….one of the most famous ouvertures in opera history….the “music of the future” (supposedly said by Wagner when he visited Rossini in Paris)….”Act 1, 3 and 4 composed by Rossini but Act 2 written by God” (Donizetti).
Fact is that at it’s first production in Paris at Salle Le Pelletier the 3rd August 1829, it was indeed a very long opera, and already after the third performance it was shortened to various lengths. An extreme example, heard in various variants, wants Rossini strolling down a Parisian Avenue, when he crossed the director of the Opéra who proudly told him that Act II of Guillaume Tell had been performed the previous night; Rossini, with the caustic wit that characterized him, retorted:” What, the whole of it?”
Performance was not always easy due to the political message of liberty, and censors forced changes almost everywhere: it  was performed in London and Berlin as Hofer, the Tell of Tyrol, in St. Petersburg as Charles the Bold, in Milan as Vallace, as Rodolfo di Sterlinga in Rome and Bologna, etc etc
The singers required for this opera are a tenore drammatico with huge stamina. The part (similarly to Raoul in Les Huguenots and Eleazar in La juive) was written for Adolphe Nourrit, who sang the higher notes in falsetto. The role was later taken on by Gilbert Luis Duprez, who introduced the then rarely performed chest voice. Also needed are a soprano with some agility for her aria in act 3, an acute tenor for the smaller part of the fisherman and a baritone for Tell.
The team in Bad Wildbad performed the opera, seemingly without any cuts.
Honest opinion? Interesting, Very interesting, even. Nice to have on CD. But far from memorable and I am not sure about the artistic value of the operation. If one had these kind of singers, why not stage a rare opera? There is so much beautiful music out there which one longs to hear more often, many opera’s by Vaccai, Pacini and Mercadante come to mind.
tellAnyway, the main singers had adequate voices although Judith Howarth is not a Rossinian soprano, lacking lightness and agility. Michael Spyres has all the notes and and excellent French but seems indifferent to what he is actually singing. Andrew Foster Williams and Nahuel di Pierro sing adequately the roles of Tell and Melchtal. Tara Stafford has a petulant, wee voice of light soprano. Additionally she got awarded with Jemmy’s aria (an aria just before Tell’s “Sois immobile“) where she wishes her father the best of luck. A never ending piece, really, luckily cut in all the Tell performances I know (my musical company for the evening puffed and rolled his eyes to heaven several times during the piece). Artavazd Sargsyan in the role of the fisherman sang very well with a clear and pure top register.
Antonino Fogliani directs capably the demanding score. See Ricciardo and Zoraide for orchestra and chorus. Schönleber, on the other hand, has nothing better to show than an idiocy after the other. I understand the need to save money, but while I enjoy reminiscing last year’s “I briganti” by Mercadante, a merciful Goddess will hopefully consign this pitiful nonsense to oblivion.
Musical director-Antonino Fogliani, Inszenierung-Jochen Schönleber, Bühnenbild-Robert Schrag, Kostüme-Claudia Möbius, Guillaume Tell-Andrew Foster Williams, Arnold-Michael Spyres,Walter/Melchtal-Nahuel di Pierro, Jemmy-Tara Stafford, Gesler-Raffaele Facciolà, Rodolphe-Giulio Pelligra, Ruodi-Artavazd Sargsyan, Leuthold-Marco Filippo Romano, Hedwige-Judith Howarth,Hedwige-Alessandra Volpe
Bad Wildbad, 21.07.13

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