ALBUM TITLE: Rossini
WORKS: Guillaume Tell
PERFORMER: Nicola Alaimo, Marina Rebeka, Juan Diego Flórez, Simón Orfila, Simone Alberghini, Amanda Forsythe, Luca Tittoto; Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Comunale di Bologna/Michele Mariotti; dir. Graham Vick
CATALOGUE NO: 074 3870 (DVD), 074 3871 (Blue-ray)
Rossini’s last and most ambitious opera was staged in August 2013 at the festival in Pesaro named after the town’s most famous son. It’s a piece that seems to be coming back into fashion, partly due to a generation of singers who can tackle its challenging roles, most notably that of the initially reluctant Swiss patriot, Arnold, here magnificently sung by Juan Diego Flórez despite its plethora of nigh-on impossible high notes.
If Flórez’s excellent performance, both vocal and dramatic, feels like the raison d’être of the production, then he’s surrounded by a very fine cast in the other major assignments. Nicola Alaimo presents a Tell of stature and substance, while Amanda Forsythe is ideal in the soprano role of his young son, Jemmy. Marina Rebeka impresses as Arnold’s aristocratic Austrian lover, Mathilde, a part she comes close to realising perfectly from both physical and vocal points of view. Luca Tittoto comes up with a suitably villainous Gesler.
Here, though, the dramatic side of things meets the mixed quantity of Graham Vick’s staging. Designed by Paul Brown, the production is set at the start of the 20th century, during a non-historical occupation of Switzerland by the Austrians (the original scenario is set in the 13th century). Film cameras initially suggest that a silent movie is being made; later on the stage fills with stuffed horses. Vick certainly portrays the Austrians as out-and-out villains, but the result is inevitably less than three-dimensional.
Choreographer Ron Howell still makes something worthwhile out of the extensive ballet sequences. The score is given complete, with some rarely heard additional material. Conductor Michele Mariotti shows a keen understanding of Rossini’s grand style, and there are excellent contributions from the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Comunale in Bologna. George Hall