Opera Reviews
15 June 2024
Untitled Document

A strong cast enlivens a rather remote production

by Moore Parker
Rossini: Guillaume Tell
Theater an der Wien
21 October 2018
John Osborn (Arnold Melchthal), Jane Archibald (Mathilde), Chorus

Slick, compact, but also rather remote and undefined, this Torsten Fischer production leans toward anonymity with its cold steel girders, and stark lighting (Franz Tscheck and Fischer), and with only vintage black and white air attack videos (Jan Frankl) nodding at a specific era and region (20th century Central Europe) in the proceedings. It was unclear as to whether the unsettling lack of synchonisation between live stage action and video depiction at certain moments was intended or not - in particular as Tell claims the apple. Perpetrator/Victim perspectives blur by apparent intent with reversed roles unfolding, as does indeed the perpetual human cycle of power and abuse - perhaps most pointed in the finale as Walter Fürst slips into Gesler’s uniform. 

Ultimately, however, the staging rings of a prefabricated format, and one more competent than original.

The high-level cast featured Christoph Pohl in the title part. While a fine technician (somewhat reminiscent of Thomas Allen’s delivery in his early days), this cultivated reading was somehow contained and introvert - both in definition and in its well-spun tone, which only rarely enjoyed true outbursts of emotion - but rising, however, in Act 3’s great “Sois immobile” to nail the evening.    

Giving a winning all-round performance, Jane Archibald scored with her fine intonation, accuracy, and exceptional phrasing as Mathilde, while lacking just a hint of ease and sheen in the upper regions of her range.

John Osborn is a rare singing bird - combining a convincing portrayal (now showing greater maturity and depth in comparison to his Michieletto-Covent Garden showing in London) and exceptional musicality with an ideal high-lying tenor of unusual breadth and stamina, to fulfil the daunting demands of Rossini's Arnold. 

Anita Rosati convinced as Tell’s son Jemmy, while delivering bell-like lines to crown some of the ensembles, and a feisty (possibly a touch exaggerated) attitude that would have cowed many a dictator.

Gesler has limited opportunity to make his mark in the piece, and requires just the physical presence and vocal prowess that Ante Jerkunica brought to the role. 

Marie-Claude Chappuis’ Hedwige was sung with finesse, and exuded a natural grace and elegance which seemed almost out of place within the raw framework to hand, while Jérome Varnier’s Melcthal leant toward a stiff and somewhat blustery character which -while occasionally jarring on the ear - left an undoubted impression and impact.

Fine vocal production and an appealing nutty baritone from Edwin Crossley-Mercer as Walter, a characterful and well-projected alcoholic Ruodi by Anton Rositskiy, together with a compelling Rodolphe by Sam Furness, and Lukas Jakobski’s imposingly-gruff Leuthold, rounded-off the cast.

The Arnold Schoenberg Chor - a vital mainstay of Theater an der Wien’s successes - again proved their artistic prowess and flexibility, and while the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Diego Matheuz began strangely “wooden” in delivery, they warmed to reveal a pristine sense of style and detail to compliment unwavering  coordination with the stage. 

Text © Moore Parker
Photo © Moritz Schell
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