William Tell Review - Opera at Bristol Hippodrome - Practically Perfect Mums
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William Tell Review – Opera at Bristol Hippodrome

WILLIAM TELL REVIEW

WELSH NATIONAL OPERA

Liberty or Death! Opera Season

The Bristol Hippodrome

Wednesday 12th – Saturday 15th November 2014

Having seen Carmen last week, this Saturday I was back at the Hippodrome for William Tell, another of the three performances which make up Welsh National Opera’s Autumn season, Liberty or Death! Moses in Egypt completes the trio.

William Tell is performed in French with English surtitles above the stage.

STORY SYNOPSIS

A political and romantic work, Gioachino Rossini’s last opera William Tell is the story of the Swiss struggle for independence against the repression of Austria. Swiss patriot William Tell has enraged Gesler the Austrian governor who arrests him and plans to execute both Tell and his son Jemmy. They escape and Tell is joined by Arnold in leading a rebellion against Austrian oppression.

VISUALS

Having the orchestra at audience level, as it was for Carmen last week, makes the musical performance seem even more special than if they were hidden in the pit.

Striking sets designed by Raimund Bauer make the most of available space, both horizontally and vertically.

The opera starts simply, with a cellist performing. Her cello is confiscated, broken and suspended high up as a backdrop, reminding us of Switzerland’s oppression.

In other scenes, so much action is packed into the full width and height of the stage that it’s hard to know where to look. At times a high tower-scaffold makes use of the vertical space, at others a large table centrepiece becomes the platform for creativity. This table is the resting place for sprawling dead bodies as well as playing host to singing, romance and amazing contemporary dance. The bodies draped across the large table are positioned and lit so perfectly that they convey the preceding slaughter utterly convincingly. Their slow writhing during Mathilda’s pretty song is also eerily effective.

There’s an oppressive grey theme running through the costumes with splashes of colour added to represent special events like the weddings. The use of prop boxes for costume changes is clever and fun. Performers carry dark boxes and after some excited anticipation, they conceal themselves behind the open lids to transform character with the addition of a wedding veil or a hat.
In contrast, spectacular metal antler helmets and armour adorn the tyrants.

DANCING

There are several remarkable contemporary dance sequences choreographed by Amir Hosseinpour; I was particularly moved by the the disturbing dance of the two violated, skimpily clad girls in act three.

MUSIC

Rossini’s score includes some music I’ve never heard before alongside one of the most well known classical pieces in history!

Carlo Rizzi not only conducts the marvellous Welsh National Orchestra with impressive energy, (I was somewhat concerned for his safety during his fast and furious baton wielding in the course of the famous Willian Tell Overture) but he also extends his authority to the audience, speedily silencing the hubbub of interval noise with the most minimal tilt of his head towards the offending direction! Hmm, I wonder if I could get that technique to work on my boys . . .

The role of William Tell is sung by David Kempster. British tenor Barry Banks performs with WNO in both Rossini operas, singing the role of Arnold in William Tell.

AGE SUITABILITY

Although my Mother and I enjoyed this performance, I wouldn’t take my children to it as I doubt very much they would be able to sit still for its duration. The plot is also quite involved so would be difficult for them to follow. One for the grown ups or much older children, I’d say.

THE VERDICT?

Not for the faint hearted, William Tell is a long production, over 3 ½ hours long, punctuated by an interval after two hours. My legs may have gone to sleep but my senses were fully alert as it’s certainly not boring!I loved the diversity of this production. For much of the time there was opera singing, of course, but there were also long periods when the stage was empty and we were treated to superb orchestral performances. My favourite was the incredibly well know and rousing William Tell Overture. There was even comedy – the rude wedding puppet show was particularly amusing!The singing and orchestral performances were strong, the visuals interesting, the dancing unexpectedly impressive.

A memorable night at the opera. Highly recommended.

More information on WNO’s Autumn Season is available at www.wno.org.uk/libertyordeath

Welsh National Opera is the national opera company for Wales. WNO is funded by the Arts Councils of Wales and England to provide large scale opera across Wales and to major cities in the English regions.

OTHER SHOW REVIEWS ON PRACTICALLY PERFECT MUMS

Carmen

Coppelia

Calamity Jane

Barnum

Shrek

Rock of Ages

The Buddy Holly Story

Tonight’s the Night

Fame

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

Robin Cousins’ ICE

Dirty Dancing

West Side Story

Happy Days

Evita

Starlight Express

Joseph

Cats

Cinderella

White Christmas

 

DISCLOSURE: I RECEIVED TICKETS FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS REVIEW. ALL OPINIONS ARE OUR OWN.

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