Monday, July 16, 2018

An achievement worth celebrating, Victorian Opera's William Tell opens at Melbourne's Palais Theatre: Herald Sun Review

Published in the Herald Sun edited form Tuesday, 17th July, 2018

An achievement worth celebrating, Victorian Opera pulled off Rossini’s final grand work with a sumptuously sounding cast of local and international soloists, a riveting and unified chorus and music that breathed with ease and purpose under artistic director Richard Mills. Incredibly, William Tell has not been performed in Australia for 142 years.

Armando Noguera as William Tell and Paolo Pecchioli as Gesler
Shared on social media and pertinent was an affecting account of one chorus member’s battle and silver-lined outcome to reach the stage. “All opera singers are willing to suffer for their art”, he wrote. Driven by passion to overcome suffering and oppression are at the core of the work. This man and all his colleagues, like the legendary Tell, can bask in victory. 

Director Rodula Gaitanou takes Tell’s original 13th century Swiss setting into a dystopian future. Mills cut Rossini’s more than 4-hour score to a little over three. The former makes a glaring distinction between the simple living, tight-knit community of Swiss villagers and the brutal, black-caped oppressors/exterminators - though at first sight rather comical - who storm into Act I spraying a vaporous cloud. The latter succeeds marvellously to give taut dramatisation. 

Argentinian Armando Noguera propelled suave baritone muscularity with skilled declamatory outbursts in portraying Tell heroically. Tempered with tenderness for his son Jemmy - a spirited Alexandra Flood who sings with diamond strength - Noguera’s performance was both enigmatic and genuine. It’s a touching father-son combination that culminates in the apple and the arrow moment that not even a technical glitch on opening night tarnished. 

Carlos Barcenas as Arnold and Gisela Stille as Mathilde
Embedded in the broader picture is the dilemma of Arnold and Mathilde’s love. Tenor Carlos Barcenas contoured the taxing demands of Rossini’s eloquent writing and drew a sympathetic and complex figure as Arnold. As Mathilde, a forest-thick lushness and determination accompanied Danish soprano Gisela Stille’s stirring interpretation.

The malevolent Gesler and his henchmen Rodolphe were in formidable form with Paolo Pecchioli and Paul Biencourt. As Walter, a steadfast Jeremy Kleeman joins Noguera and Barcenas in a thrilling trio of solidarity, Teddy Tahu Rhodes was towering as a sage-like Melcthal and Liane Keegan’s reliable expertise gave impact to Tell’s wife Hedwige.

Of course, there’s the famous gallop as part of the overture which 70-odd musicians played impressively but there’s glorious music to revel in throughout and one gigantic victorious ending to stay for.

William Tell 
Victorian Opera 
Palais Theatre 
Until 19th July 


Production Photos: Jeff Busby