Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year Baby

I confess, I had to click this morning's Google logo to figure out what the heck it was. Jumping frogs # Rossini's birthday, because I didn't notice that one of them was a barber. He's not wearing 18th c. Spanish clothing, either.

That said, yes, it's Giacchino Rossini's birthday, and all the best people are celebrating. As Joshua notes, his greatest achievement was his last opera, Guillaume Tell. I nearly fell over the only time I've seen it performed. It's a towering masterpiece of great musical and theatrical depth, with a most remarkable finale.

I'll get to that in a minute. Let's start with the overture. Yes, you might think you know it, but I was flabbergasted to find recently that a highly knowledgable musician friend had never heard the whole thing. There is no greater opera overture, from the solo cellos in the first section to the call to arms in the last.

Here is a great, great performance of the duet "Ah, Mathilde," in the wrong language, but never mind. Marcel Journet as William Tell and Giovanni Martinelli at his youthful and heroic best as Arnold:

Here's the finale, all prayers and flowing harps. This is after quite a lot of tense action. The performance embedded below is not quite the most professional imaginable, but it'll give you an idea. If you want to hear more, you could pick up the recent recording conducting by Antonio Pappano or the older recording (in Italian, alas) with Pav and Caballe.

If you ever have a chance to see Tell, buy a ticket immediately. You won't regret it for a second.


Joshua Kosman said...

I knew I'd heard the Tell overture live quite recently, but such is the state of my increasingly feeble memory that I had to consult the Chron archive to find when it was. Turns out it was just last December, to open the Adler Fellows showcase.

What I thought at the time, but didn't say in my review because there wasn't enough space for jokes, was this: Opera companies are always staging a particular opera for this singer or that (*koff* Lucrezia Borgia *koff*). I think the SF Opera ought to revive William Tell if for no other reason than that they have David Kadaurach as their principal cellist.

Lisa Hirsch said...


They might find one or two other reasons to revive it, but who on earth could do a good job with Arnold?

Chanterelle said...

Michael Spyres was a pretty good Arnold in the Caramoor production last summer.