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William Tell - It's Much More Than An Overture !

   Every one has heard jokes about the world-famous William Tell overture - da da bum da da bum da da bum bum bum .  The use of the overture by Rossini in the Lone Ranger series on television  has made it forever associated with Hi Ho Silver, and  Kemo Sabe .  A joke goes "How can you recognize a cultured person ?  That's some one who doesn't think of the Lone Ranger when he hears the overture ."
  In fact , the overture is just the opening of a  four hour long opera based on the life of a legendary 14th century figure in Swiss history , Wilhelm Tell ,  who organized the Swiss Cantons
in a rebellion against the oppressive rule of Austria , and who supposedly shot an apple off his son's head at the order of the Austrian tyrant Gessler , a character in the opera .

   Guillaume Tell , to use the French title as the opera was written for the Paris opera in  the  late 1820s , is a monumental  operatic masterpiece which is more talked about than performed , because of its great length and the difficulty in finding singers up to the great demands of the leading roles , and was Rossini's last opera  out of  no fewer than 39 .  It is almost always performed with sme cuts because of its great length and difficulty .

   Rossini, who was born in Pesaro, Italy in 1792 and died in Paris in 1868 , was the most successful opera composer of  his day until the arrival of Giuseepe Verdi , and is best known for his zany and melodious comic opera The Barber of Seville .  But he also wrote serious operas ,  among them William Tell . 

   Rossini  abandoned writing operas before the age of 40 ,  but continued to compose a variety of other works ,such as piano pieces  and  choral works .  He had become very wealthy , and lived the life of  what we would now call a playboy for many years until his death .  He was a true bon-vivant and a  great wit , and  loved to entertain distinguished  dinner  guests lavishly at his home in Paris . 

   The exact reason for his abandoning opera is still  debated among musicologists and  opera buffs .  Had he written  himself out?  Was he be bored with turning out one opera after another , often at great speed and under great pressure ?  We will probably never know .

   On  July 9th , there will be a rare concert performance of Guillaume Tell  at the Caramoor festival  in Katonah, New York  , about 50 miles north of New York City , which is
said to be a delightful place for Summer music , at the elegant estate which used to be owned by a wealthy  businessman and his wife .  The festival features chamber music of all kinds and concerts by its resident orchestra , the orchestra of St. Luke's in New York , as well as Jazz and world music concerts . 

   The conductor and scholar Will Crutchfield , one of the foremost experts on 19th century Italian opera ,will  be on the podium , with a cast of up-and -coming young opera singers .
   Rossini's music for this  operatic rarity  is very different from his  zany and  effervescent
comic operas , and  is both dramatc and majestic , as well as  featuring  charming pastoral music evoking  rural Switzerland .  

   The opera is sometimes performed in Italian as Guglielmo Tell , as in the DVD  from  the La Scala  opera in Milan  conducted by Riccardo Muti , which I recommend highly .
There is also a  recording in the original French  on the EMI  label  conducted by the late Lamberto Gardelli  , and  that label will soon issue a new recording conducted by  the noted conductor Antonio Pappano . 

   The Metropolitan opera  has not performed Tell for some 80  years , but  there have been a coup;le of concert performances in Carnegie hall by  by  Eve Queler and the Opera orchestra of New York .   For more information , contact  the festival  at their website .  There is also an interesting article in the Sunday New York Times arts and lesure section of July 3  on the opera .
Posted: Jul 04 2011, 05:35 PM by the horn | with no comments
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