“Grand, cinematic opera, in wide-screen and Surround Sound” – this is how Germany’s daily Die Welt sees Rossini’s “Guillaume Tell” (1829) from the Rossini Opera Festival Pesaro. The renowned Festival has produced an impressive staging of Rossini’s last opera, which is feared for its multitude of high notes by all tenors singing the role of Arnold – except, perhaps, the phenomenal Juan Diego Flórez, “in a class of his own” (Deutschlandradio), who interprets this role here.
The work is an early example of romantic French Grand Opera and with its lavish musical writing and patriotic themes, the work itself set new musical and dramaturgical standards anticipating the music of Bellini, Donizetti, Meyerbeer, Verdi and even Wagner. After a performance of the work, Wagner told Rossini: “You have written music for all times, and that is the best.” At the Rossini Festival in Pesaro – whose solid credentials include editions based on serious research and faithfulness to the original – it is given in its original French version, and includes, besides the many great choruses, the beautiful, but often omitted ballet music.
The William Tell story goes back to Switzerland in 1307. Tell leads the Resistance against the oppressive Austrian official Gessler. Young Arnold, meanwhile, is a Swiss patriot but loves the Austrian Princess Mathilde. When Tell refuses to obey Gessler, the Austrian forces him to shoot an apple off his son’s head. Tell succeeds, but is jailed. Arnold picks up the torch of rebellion in spite of his love for Mathilde...
British director Graham Vick interprets the conflict of the Habsburg oppressors and the oppressed Swiss as a class conflict, and the story of the Swiss hero becomes the drama of a community’s resistance against a political, economic and military power. It is a timeless take on class struggles captured in drastic and unforgettable images, such as the gigantic staircase that descends from the ceiling at the end, and that will show Tell’s son the way to a free future.
The singers in this “Guillaume Tell” are “cast outstandingly down into the tiniest supporting roles”, wrote Deutschlandradio. And, as Arnold, Juan Diego Flórez “masters his part with seemingly effortless perfection” (Austria’s leading daily Die Presse). Praise was also heaped upon the young conductor Michele Mariotti, who made the opera come to life with the orchestra of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna playing “with furor, grandeur and precision” (Deutschlandradio).