The operatic forces of Teatro Reggio di Torino are on a four city tour of North America. Last night, at Roy Thomson Hall, they performed a concert version of Rossini’s Guglielmo Tell. It was strictly concert style without any of the “semi staging” touches that are normal here so just music stands at the front of the stage and concert dress. It’s in some ways a very odd way to experience a piece like this because some of the most dramatic scenes aren’t sung but are accompanied by the orchestra. Take the canonical scene where Tell shoots the arrow off his son’s head. We get the build up and it’s fairly obvious what the hushed orchestra is all about and then we get the chorus announcing basically “Gee by golly, he did it”. Maybe the supertitles could be used as a commentary track at such points?
Format aside, how was the performance? One would have to say that it was very good indeed. This is a long and difficult work with three challenging principal roles and a raft of supports including three basses. It also requires the orchestra to be super dramatic without sounding like a Looney Tunes soundtrack. All the elements were there. Luca Salsi anchored the cast in the title role. He has a rather beautiful baritone, excellent technique and power enough. He conveyed great depth of feeling especially in his big number in Act 3. Angela Meade sang the princess Matilde (1). She has a voice of beauty and power too and navigated the very tricky runs in her part with great skill. Enea Scala, as her suitor, Arnoldo Mechtal, was the real Italian tenor deal; ardent with bell like money notes. His chemistry with Meade was excellent too.
The rest of the cast was more than adequate. The three basses; Marco Spotti as Tell’s sidekick Farst, Fabrizio Beggi as the elder Mechtal and Gabriele Sagonda as the tyrannical Gesseler were all rock solid and soprano Marina Bucciarelli was quite affecting as Tell’s son. Bonus points to her for being the only person on stage not wearing black. Gianandrea Noseda conducted and was highly effective as well as fun to watch. He’s a very physical conductor! He kept things moving forward in a work that I think could easily drag and he managed to make those big Rossini climaxes exciting without them quite spiralling out of control. It must be fum to play percussion in this piece.
It was a long evening but passed rather more quickly than I thought it might. It was fun to hear a classic Italian opera (well French really i suppose) done in such an overtly Italian way.
FN1. Saturday trivia question. We are in 13th century Austrian occupird Switzerland. Matilde, who appears to be Austrian, says she is the “daughter of a king”. Where could her father possibly have been king of