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Rossini: William Tell / Pappano, Finley, Osborn, Rose, Caton, Cigni

Release Date: 08/09/2011 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 0288262  
Composer:  Gioachino Rossini
Performer:  Malin BystromMarie-Nicole LemieuxDavide MalvestioFrédéric Caton,   ... 
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome ChorusSanta Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ROSSINI Guillaume Tell Antonio Pappano, cond; Gerald Finley ( Guillaume Tell ); Malin Byström ( Mathilde ); Elena Xanthoudakis ( Jemmy ); Marie-Nicole Lemieux ( Hedwige ); John Osborn ( Arnold ); Frédéric Caton ( Melcthal ); Read more Matthew Rose ( Walter Furst ); Carlo Cigni ( Gesler ); Carlo Bosi ( Rodolphe ); Celso Abelo ( Ruodi ); Dawid Kimberg ( Leuthold ); Davide Malvestio ( Huntsman ); Santa Cecilia Acad O & Ch EMI 50999 0 28826 2 8 (3 CDs: 208:15 Text and Translation)

Rossini’s last opera, Guillaume Tell , can be considered a precursor to Meyerbeer’s approach to grand opera; Antonio Pappano’s commitment and enthusiasm also demonstrate that it far outshines most of its successors (though not Les Troyens ). The score is that prepared by Elizabeth C. Bartlett under the aegis of the Rossini Foundation in Pesaro, which might explain some of the differences between the standard piano-vocal score edited at the time of the premiere and what can be heard here. There is also a problem with respect to cuts and additions made after that piano score was published, some of which may have come from the composer himself and some from the authorities at the Paris Opera who found the work far too long. If anyone is looking forward to hearing the trio for the women or Hedwige’s prayer in the last act, he or she will be disappointed, but both were in fact cut by Rossini before the premiere. Fortunately the cut marked in my score for Mathilde’s act III aria is disregarded. Berlioz devoted several articles to Guillaume Tell in 1834 that are worth reading (I don’t know if they have ever been translated but here’s a link to the French text—hberlioz.com/others/LLascoux.htm). Grumbling about what was and was not eliminated, he says, “Those who cut only know how to remove beautiful moments. In performing castration, it is the noble parts [ parties nobles ] that are removed.”

The French operas by not only Rossini but Donizetti and Verdi as well are too often heard in the traditional, botched Italian translations because it is easier for managements, as the singers already know the roles in Italian, it is easier to sing in Italian, etc. But these works take on different coloring when heard in French, which brings them closer to what the composer presumably envisioned. We are fortunate to possess three recordings of Guillaume Tell in French, though I do not know that which emanates from the Vienna Opera. The major casting problem is the tenor role of Arnold, which was written for Adolphe Nourrit, one of the last tenors not to have sung his high notes from the chest as did his successor Gilbert-Louis Duprez. Nourrit even omitted his great aria in the last act, but those were other times. When Rossini was told that act II of Tell was scheduled at the Paris Opera, he quipped, “What, all of it?” John Osborn is more of the Nourrit school, daring to sing high notes in head voice, though ringing out when essential as in the cabaletta to his aria. Osborn is also quite stylish if not as comfortable in French as Nicolai Gedda, but who of non-French tenors today is? Gerald Finley is authoritative but nuanced, unlike Gabriel Bacquier. Malin Byström is for me the weak link here, her soft-grained voice projecting insufficiently in French. Among a host of singers, we can single out Elena Xanthoudakis as a charming Jemmy, Matthew Rose as a gruff Walter Furst, Celso Abelo as Ruodi (whose difficult serenade opens the opera), and the full-toned Marie-Nicole Lemieux as Hedwige. The French of most of the cast is more than acceptable, though the chorus occasionally utters strange vowels. Otherwise, orchestra and chorus are in great form. Special praise also to the sound engineers, who have not brought the singers to the fore as is too often the case, so that the balance is far more natural.

The older (landmark) recording (also on EMI) is in the capable hands of Lamberto Gardelli, where there are no cuts whatever with respect to the contemporary score. While the bass contingent may not be as stylish as on the new recording, the voices of Kolos Kovacs, Louis Hendrikx, and Gwynne Howell are quite distinctive. Montserrat Caballé is in fine fettle, Gedda stylish as ever, Mady Mesplé not necessarily to everyone’s taste, but she allows us to hear an aria that never even made it into print. An earlier EMI highlights disc features a younger Gedda and Andréa Guiot, whose stylishness can be appreciated, but if I had to choose a single version of Mathilde’s aria “Sombre forêt,” I would choose the young Régine Crespin (available in various EMI anthologies).

FANFARE: Joel Kasow
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Works on This Recording

Guillaume Tell by Gioachino Rossini
Performer:  Malin Bystrom (Soprano), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Mezzo Soprano), Davide Malvestio (Bass),
Frédéric Caton (Bass), John Osborn (Tenor), Gerald Finley (Baritone),
Matthew Rose (Bass), Carlo Bosi (Tenor), Elena Xanthoudakis (Soprano),
Celso Albelo (Tenor), David Kimberg (Baritone)
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Chorus,  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1829; Italy 
Date of Recording: Live 2010 
Venue:  Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome 
Language: French