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.
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.
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.
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 William 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.
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.
A memorable night at the opera. Highly recommended.
More information on WNO’s Autumn Season is available at www.wno.org.uk
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.
DISCLOSURE: I RECEIVED TICKETS FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS REVIEW. ALL OPINIONS ARE OUR OWN.