In many ways this is
a magnificent achievement. I just wish
the DVD issuing companies would get
their act together in terms of presentation.
Here we have a brief, one paragraph
plot synopsis (for a four-hour opera!)
and no background notes on either work
or performance. Instead Opus Arte has
reproduced the entire libretto – with
no track indications whatsoever and
with no translations. This is a side
of DVD production that needs addressing.
The staging is fascinating.
Vast panelled video screens provide
the scenic backdrops. Videos of nature
in all its glory are projected onto
these. It makes for breathtaking effect,
and the good news is that one does not
tire of it.
Muti conducts with
real assurance. Pacing the drama magnificently,
it is on performances like these that
the controversial Maestro has made his
well-deserved musical reputation. Tell
emerges as a masterpiece from first
to last. Rossini's compositional confidence
in his craft is never once in doubt,
and there is no trace of any longueur
This is clearly an
opera for which Muti has unbounded affection.
This comes out clearly in the Overture,
with its 'vocal' solo cello and its
inclusion of oases of peace alongside
real excitement. The camera relishes
the opportunity to focus on the Maestro
- occasionally, later, he 'appears'
juxtaposed onto the stage, a technique
that seems to crop up regularly in these
Scala DVDs. Strings are very much on-the-ball
for the 'famous' part.
The Scala chorus, too,
are in fine fettle, as they amply demonstrate
in the gentle prayer that precedes the
rather stand-and-deliver Fisherman (Vittorio
Terranova). Much better from the angle
of stage presence is our Guglielmo of
the evening, the experienced Giorgio
Zancanaro. If his gestures can be rather
stock-in-trade (in Act 3 especially),
he brings a real vocal warmth to the
role. And at least it looks as if he
shoots the arrow.
Chris Merritt is a
strong Arnoldo, ardent in his love for
Mathilde, thirsty for revenge in Act
3. The long scene he has with Guglielmo
in Act 1 works particularly well, because
of the intensity both singers bring
to their parts. His best moments are
saved for the Fourth and final Act;
his high register there is simply lovely.
Mathilde is Cheryl Studer, who comes
into her own in Act 2. Her scene is
magnificent in its lyricism and her
sensitive shading of the line. At this
point we are treated to more 'ghost'
images of Muti; rather off-putting they
are, too. The dark staging of Act 2
lends a particularly close atmosphere
to events. In Act 3 Studer is if anything
even more impressive - her vocal manoeuvrability
is astonishing. Call me a heathen for
this, but I cannot help thinking the
interruptive ballet to be over-long
and a huge distraction. Ballet-lovers,
will, of course, disagree.
Alberto Noli is a forceful
Leutoldo; Ernesto Gavazzi's Rodolfo
is rather weak, though. Luigi Roni''s
Gessler is on the wobbly side initially
although he improves tremendously as
the opera progresses.
Ensembles are a consistent
joy – just try the finale of Act 1 –
thanks to Muti's clear direction and
the superb choral forces.
This is a superb DVD.
Tell is one of Rossini's masterpieces.
The composer's inspiration never once
flags. Do try to experience this treat.