Guglielmo Tell in concert

1. Luca Salsi HD-1

Luca Salsi

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?

3. Angela Meade - credit Dario Acosta

Angela Meade

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.

2. Enea Scala HD

Enea Scala

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

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4 thoughts on “Guglielmo Tell in concert

  1. Agreed that this opera is quite unusual in its structure in that there were several episodes (the famous shooting of the apple scene but also William’s final tumultuous sea journey home) that are purely orchestral and therefore difficult to decipher in a concert performance. However, I felt so honoured to hear this opera live, performed with such skill and commitment that I could easily look over that. What struck me most was what to my ear sounded like a real, idiomatic, performance of an Italian opera by Italians. Your excellent review failed to mention one crucial element to the success of this performance: the absolutely phenomenal chorus! William Tell must be one of the most demanding choral operas, and the Turin group was outstanding. So many different styles of choral writing (loved the staccato numbers placed in between the dance movements played by orchestra), and the chorus handled them all so well. Loud, soft, quick, slow…they were absolutely precise and the sound they made! Made me re-think the acoustics of RTH because from where I sat (very back row, central balcony) they sounded huge. Their biggest asset though was their handling of the text – you could literally hear and understand many of their words which is highly unusual in a chorus this size, singing with such robust tone. The diction of all the Italian soloists was likewise very clear. Again, it made me think…we are so fortunate in North America’s big centres to hear superb soloists from around the world…but…it’s very rare for any of us who don’t travel a great deal to hear opera sung in it’s native language by native speakers. I think we had a lesson in that last night. Meade was the only non-Italian in the cast, and did well in this respect for sure, but I think her delivery of the text had less specificity than the rest – vocally she was truly outstanding. Noseda’s handling of this massive enterprise was thrilling – what a fantastic orchestra he has crafted together. And, the players really looked like they were having fun and were deeply committed. I liked the tenor as well – a bit of a ham with his bows when no one else was taking them – but he was completely covered by the orchestra in his big call to arms aria at the beginning of the final act. Inevitable I guess given what the orchestra was doing at that point, but still…He has the right voice for this role I think – very “pingy” and bright, but maybe a size too small for that section only. We must thank Noseda and his commitment to gathering the funds together to bring this group to North America – not something that happens every day.

    • I think I agree with you on all points. Yje chorus was very good and the whole thing felt so “Italian”. I did find the endless applause and end of scene/act curtain calls with Noseda wandering around the orchestra shaking hands with everyone a bit tedious but whatever, everyone seemed to be having so much fun.

  2. I am going to see this at Carnegie tomorrow and am so looking forward to it. Was Scala the originally announced Arnoldo? John Osborn is listed for the performance here. What are there something like 16 high Cs for the tenor?

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