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The Composer Is Turning In His grave .

  Recently ,  London's Royal Opera , Covent Garden  revived  a legendary , rarely performed opera by  Gioacchino Rossini  (1792 - 1868 ) , best 

known for his beloved comic opera The Barber of Seville .  This was  the famous William Tell , made famous by its use on  "The Lone Ranger ".

    The famous overture is just the opening of a huge , nearly four hour long operatic epic based on  medieval Swiss history , when  Switzerland

was under the tyrannical rule of Austria .  Because of its great length ,  extremely demanding   parts for the principal singers  and overall  

unwieldiness , the opera has never been  performed  frequently , and revivals are always musical events .  

    The opera is chock full of wonderful music  beyond the famous overture , though  ,  so it's definitely worth seeing if you ever get a chance .

It has also frequently been performed with extensive cuts  for practical reasons . 

    But  the recent production in London  provoked  considerable critical outrage  because  the director  , who shall remain nameless ,  

indulged in  some of the typical  directorial mayhem which has been plaguing European  opera productions since the 1970s .   This  dramatic

perversity has been labelled "Eurotrash opera ", or "Regie theater " , in which directors and designers   take truly unwaranted liberties with

dramatic values , such as  adding all manner of gratuitous sex, violence and  ridiculous arbotrary production gimmicks .

     If the  great  composer Rossini were alive today , he would no doubt have suffered heart failure  during one of the opera's ballet  

sequences in this production  .  In one scene , Swiss peasants are dancing in honor of the tyrannical  Austrian ruler of  Switzerland, the one who 

orders  Wiilliam Tell, leader of the Swiss resistance  , to shoot an arrow  in order to attempt to  shoot  an apple off his son's head .

    The director  perversely  turned the ballet into a dance by Austrian soldiers who  strip and brutally rape a young Swss woman !   

He claimed that this was intended to show the  "ugliness of war", or something to that effect .  But was this really necessary  in an opera

like this ? I think not .  The London music critics had a field   day denouncing the director, as well they should have .  But such excesses have 

unfortunately becme the norm in European opera companies, especially Germany , where it's de rigeur to  do all manner of  perverse

things to any given opera .  You almost never see an opera staged in  its original time or even location .  Or possibly it will be  in the

country of the original  libretto , but  it will be in the present day .   Updating the operas is far from the worst part of these productions ,

and is not really objectionable in itself .  But the directors and designers always seem to have some ridiculous  arbitrary gimmick up their

sleeves, just for shock value .  Such as  showing  ***  executing people even in an opera which takes place centuries before the second world 

war ,  and other preposterous gimmicks .  

    There have been  a fair number of productions in America and Canada which update  operas and use gimmicks, but they fortunately tend not 

to be nearly as perverse as the European   ones .

     Interestingly , this production will be  coming to New York's Metropolitan opera in the near future  , where it has not been performed for  

at least 80  or so  years .  Whether the ballet will  repeat  what  was in the London performances remains to be seen ,  but let's hope not !

    The London production  will probably be released on DVD  before long , but there are at least two others  in existence .  Try the production

from La Scala, Milan conducted by Riccardo Muti  , which dates from about 20 or so years ago .   Such a great opera deserves better  than

to be subject  to  gratuitous sex and violence .  Leave poor Rossini in peace, please !

Posted: Aug 10 2015, 09:55 PM by the horn | with no comments
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