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Roy Thomson Hall
12/05/2014 -  & December 3 (Chicago), 7 (New York), 9 (Ann Arbor), 2014
Gioacchino Rossini: Guglielmo Tell
Luca Salsi (Guglielmo Tell), Enea Scala (Arnoldo Melcthal), Angela Meade (Matilde), Marco Spotti (Gualtiero Farst), Fabrizio Beggi (Melcthal), Mikeldi Atxalandabaso (Ruodi), Marina Bucciarelli (Jemmy), Anna Maria Chiuri (Edwige), Gabriele Sagonda (Gessler), Saverio Fiore (Rodolfo), Paulo Maria Orecchia (Leutoldo)
Chorus of the Teatro Regio, Claudio Fenoglio (chorus master), Orchestra of the Teatro Regio, Gianandrea Noseda (conductor)

A. Meade (© Dario Acosta)

This performance is sure to rank as one of the highlights of Toronto’s musical season.

Gianandrea Noseda has managed the brilliant, if slightly insane, idea of taking the orchestra, chorus and soloists of the opera company he directs musically, Turin’s Teatro Regio, on a one-week, four-city tour of North America - with concert performances of Rossini’s magnum opus, Guglielmo Tell. Toronto was the second stop.

With two intervals (and lengthy outbursts of applause), the performance was three and three-quarter hours long. Most of the ballet music was clipped which (while it is Rossini at his typically vibrant) was no great loss in a concert performance.

Up until a couple of weeks ago the title role was to have been performed by Dalibor Jenis, who performed it when the company staged it in Turin this past May. As far as I can tell, these tour dates mark Luca Salsi’s role debut. He has a voice that is rich, full and steady; his aria “Resta immobile”, addressed to his son just before he shoots the legendary arrow, was one the evening’s many highlights.

For the tour the company wisely employs two tenors in the taxing role of Arnoldo (one cannot expect anyone to perform the role four times in seven days), and we heard Enea Scala, a good-looking young man with an attractive voice. He has experience performing the other lyric tenor role in the work, that of Ruodi, whose high-lying serenade opens Act I. Scala was submerged during his Act I duet with Tell, but then the love scene in Act II went very well. He was most impressive in the most difficult stretch of the role, the big scene in Act IV when he exhorts a call to arms. The scene is a fore-runner of Verdi’s “Di quella pira” in Il trovatore, although Verdi did not write such high-lying music for his tenor.

There really isn’t much to say about Angela Meade except she seems to be absolutely ideal for the role of Matilde, the Austrian princess in love with Arnoldo. The romantic leads are both firmly in the love vs. duty tradition of operatic conflicted love; the fact that their story is secondary to the political dispute (the Swiss opposing the occupying Austrians) gives the work a dramatically unique edge.

The eight side roles were also well performed, notably Mikeldi Atxalandabaso as Ruodi and Anna Maria Chiuri as Tell’s wife, Edwige.

Also heightening the drama is the huge role played by the chorus, in this case a group that is absolutely top-notch if not lavish. Ditto the 79-member orchestra. Noseda led an electrifying performance of Verdi’s Requiem in 2010 (with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra) and he brought the same dramatic verve to this performance.

This presentation was brought to Toronto by the TSO, so a goodly number of Friday evening subscribers were treated to this. Still it wasn’t quite sold out, although it deserved to have been. Maestro Noseda has toured his company a fair bit - it would be great if they returned. It also serves as an example of what could be done by either the TSO or the Canadian Opera Company in presenting hard-to-stage works in concert format.

Michael Johnson



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