Sunday, 19 July 2015

Swiss miss? (Wm Tell/ROH)

Rossini, Guillaume Tell (Pappano cond. Orchestra Royal Opera House, Royal Opera)

Opera rarely hits the headlines, but unless you live under a rock, you will have heard about the Guilluame Tell fiasco Covent Garden. So much comment, objection; how many had seen it, I wonder. I was utterly terrified by the speed with which Holten caved in over this. What if next time it is an objection to Wagner or Cosí? Scary stuff. Finding a production which keeps everyone happy is about as easy as getting an arrow through an apple on someone's head. And that can’t be the requirement.
The acid test is this: did it fit? When I saw the encore relay, absolutely. So much of the focus was on Gesler (Nicolas Courjal) who was given an sadistic psychology and much depth through this scene, as he laughed throughout. The revised scene – of sexual assault rather than rape I suppose- was certainly ‘toned down’. A sheet for a start. There was no visible nudity as such. There were about five people in the cinema, and none booed.
There were many fine performances, and some great arias. Pappano when interviewed at the relay, suggested it was a slow burner. He is right. And until the last half hour, I wondered if there was a reason that we know two pieces from it (everyone knows at least one). But the final act is utterly thrilling, and came alive in this version. I do hope Damiano Michieletto will be invited back. (Note: he is doing the Cav/Pag in the autumn with pricey tickets). Sofia Fomina as Jemmy pulled off one of the best and most-convincing trouser roles one might hope to see.
The dates were inconvenient for me (a very short run of only six performances in late June and July) and I was glad to have seen it in the cinema Would I go to a revival? Very likely.
The Royal Opera is not winning with everything at the moment. Recently, I turned off the radio in horror at an uneven and undignified Don Giovanni, before the end of the overture. There is a vanity project to ‘open up’ the entrance hall and refurbish the Linbury Studio with a budget sufficient to endow the Birmingham Opera Company – I think it in rather bad taste in the present climate.  Then there is the eye-watering salaries paid to Holten, Beard and Pappano whilst so many are so poorly paid at Covent Garden. At the same time, I have seen some extraordinary productions, and almost salivate at the prospect of the autumn offerings. But what a dangerous route it would be for a lavish company with all that giltwork to start compromising on artistic standards to keep people happy.
Credits & Cast
Music - Gioachino Rossini
Libretto - Etienne de Jouy
Libretto - Hippolyte Bis
Director - Damiano Michieletto
Set designs - Paolo Fantin
Costume designs - Carla Teti
Lighting design - Alessandro Carletti

Conductor - Antonio Pappano
Guillaume Tell - Gerald Finley
Arnold Melcthal - John Osborn
Mathilde - Malin Byström
Walter Furst - Alexander Vinogradov
Jemmy - Sofia Fomina
Hedwige - Enkelejda Shkosa
Gesler - Nicolas Courjal
Melcthal - Eric Halfvarson
Rodolphe - Michael Colvin
Leuthold - Samuel Dale Johnson
Ruodi - Enea Scala
Royal Opera Chorus
Concert Master - Sergey Levitin
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

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