Riccardo Muti conducts a fine cast led by Giorgio Zancanaro in the title role of Rossini?s towering and opulent last opera with the Corps de Ballet, Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro alla Scala. This performance uses a new It... more »alian translation, taken from the uncut critical edition of William Tell. Picture Format: 4:3
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 06/30/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This production, from the late 1980s, is from La Scala and had been released previously on both DVD and VHS, but I've heard those were in an inferior transfer. This 2 DVD set is from the original RAI television production and the visuals are quite sharp, the sound lifelike. The stage setting itself features a singing area up front that is rather generic but allows for credible movement of the chorus and principals. The background is made of up of three huge projections of appropriately selected video scenes from the Swiss countryside, primarily of forest and mountain views, and although it is occasionally distracting, it is spectacular scenery and contributes to the sylvan mood of the opera.
The direction by Riccardo Muti is characteristically top-notch. He is clearly a conductor for whom the Rossini score means a great deal. The Scala orchestra, which appears larger than usual in this production, is very fine. (The famous overture is played brilliantly.) The principals, Americans Cheryl Studer as Matilde and Chris Merritt as Arnoldo, the romantic leads, are world-class. Studer later had vocal troubles, but at the time of this production she sounded to be in good vocal health. Merritt, then at the height of his fame as a Rossini tenor, is thrilling. The other principals include a believably heroic and sonorous Giorgio Zancanaro as William Tell, Luigi Roni as Gessler, the villain, Giorgio Surjan as Gualtiero, and a too-young but vocally effective Franco de Grandis as Melchtal, Arnoldo's father. Tell's two children, Jemmy and Edwige are nicely done by Amelia Felle and Ludicana D'Intino. Ballet sequences are appropriately rustic and the sparkling dancing of prima ballerina Carla Fracci is a real delight.
It is wonderful to have the uncut 'Guglielmo Tell,' but it is hard to sit through the whole almost four hours without a break. I broke it up into two evenings' viewing, two acts each evening. There are no extras with the DVD except for English subtitles (which is the default setting). There is a complete Italian libretto printed in the provided booklet.
Good cast, good conductor, old production.
Frédéric Violay | Lyon, France | 06/12/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This production of Rossini's William Tell is musically good. Singers are wellknown and on their best (Studer, Merrit). Maestro Muti conducts with energy and sensibility. After the first two long acts, the opera beomes more and more interesting.
The only problem, is that the decor is constituted by natural sceneries from swizerland, projected on different screws moving to bring a little bit of diversity on the stage. The colour are not well definited, every thing is green and grey because of the lack of colour of the film, so the production is not so "televisual".
But, this opera is not so ofen plaid in opera house, and the musical production is on a high level. So for the music..."
Great Music, poor stage direction
B. Bork | Ontario, Canada | 01/26/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I will say outright that although I'm not truly qualified to judge the quality of the performers due to my lack of musical training, I can honestly say from an amateurs perspective that the music (both vocal and instrumental elements) is outstanding. My critical eye drifts more towards the production than the music for this DVD.
I've bought a little over 12 opera performances on DVD and had yet to experience the cliché, melodramatic acting that has become anecdotal to how contemporary culture views opera until this production of Guglielmo Tell. The stage direction here is horribly cliché and pretentious. All those cheesy dramatic arm flourishes, self-pitying pouts, awkward embraces, and every other behavioural opera stereotype is present in abundance in this production. These standard, tiresome conventions make this long 4 act grand opera even longer seeming than it actually is.
What adds to the already existing production problems is the onstage action. Like another reviewer wisely pointed out, this production seems like a concert or oratorio. The biggest, and I mean BIGGEST draw back to this DVD is that the onstage drama is severely out of synch with the musical score. The music is so rich in passion and action that seeing the performers singing in place as if there feet where glued to the stage seems a crime and a waste.
This crippling approach is most apparent during the finales, especial the first act finale. The relatively long closing passage once the performers are finished singing is musically descriptive in that it's supposed to describe the on stage action of Melchthal being seized while the Swiss unsuccessfully try to free him. The curtain is supposed to fall on this frenetic scene but this production has all the performers standing in place and staring pretentiously out into the theatre audience with no on stage activity describing the none vocal drama of these closing moments.
It's this disconnect between the onstage direction/drama and Rossini's engaging, exhilarating score that knock two stars off of what is a musical five star performance."
Rossini's masterpiece...I'm grateful.
S. J McKenna | San Francisco, CA USA | 09/08/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm grateful for this production as it is the only one available. The music is just fantastic...rich, varied, and occasionally transcendent. The one comment I will make (leaving the rest to others) is that Cheryl Studer is in poor voice. It is disappointing to hear the thin tentative tonal-trouble sound of a voice not in good health. Again though, I have to say that I am grateful and overall it gets my kudos. Yes its long...yes it is static at times, but the music, the music, the music, the music."
Excellent music with poor staging
A. BOSS | Mountainside, NJ United States | 08/16/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very good (although very long) opera. The singing and conducting are excellent. Unfortunately, the staging, which consists of a number of panels showing various Swiss type scenes with what looks like choir stalls in front of the panels, simply doesn't work. At best, it adds nothing; at worst it is a distraction. I would rate the singing 5 stars and the staging 2 stars. Since this long opera is less expensive on DVDs than on CDs, it is still a good buy in spite of it's shortcomings, even if you decide to close your eyes while you listen to it."