Monday, November 26, 2007

Do Tell

Orange crate label - Orange County Public LibraryAt the end of the first half of Saturday's evening's concert performance of Guillaume Tell, I would've been more than happy to board a Number 2 tram and head for a restaurant at Piazza di Popolo. An animated Antonio Pappano had conducted a peppy version of the (in)famous Overture and was driving the performance along at a good pace but the evening just wasn't catching fire - the french horns which have a lot to do in Tell were having a real off-evening, missed entries and some out of tune playing. The chorus, under 80 year old Norbert Balatsch, was proving one of the glories of the evening. But the soloists were largely uninvolved with the proceedings and big moments went by unnoticed.

Suddenly at the beginning of Act 3 the whole thing took off. Singers who had been, for the most part, glued to their music stands and scores became involved - the air practically crackled with tension during the the Apple Shooting scene and the action and music drove on to an exciting Act 4 and triumphant finale.

Within the next two hours Michelle Pertusi (Tell), who had been totally uninvolved for the first two acts, gave a heartbreaking performance of Sois immobile and American tenor John Osborn (Arnold) became a Rome favorite. Pertusi had been the worst offender in the first half - going through the motions, sprawled out in his chair and examining his nails when not required to sing. Maybe Pappano had given him a pep-talk during the intermission but it was suddenly apparent why he is one of the Rossini basses of choice these days. Osborn had been singing well all evening, his (and Pappano and his orchestral and choral forces) efforts to bring some drama into the Call to Arms and Gathering of the Cantons at the end of Act 2 had floundered on the laisse-faire singing of Pertusi and Alex Espisito (Walter Frust.) But the duets with a slightly underpowered but dramatically involved Norah Amsellem (Mathilde)had been fine and at the beginning of act 3 exciting. He opened Act 4 with a beautiful account of Asile heréditaire then set the place on fire with Amis, Amis secondez ma vengance. The bravos and applause went on for a good three or four minutes and the ovation that greeted his appearance at the end was thunderous.

And though Laurent and I agreed that maybe another rehearsal may have been in order and those music stands and scores had to go, we were on our feet with the rest of the house.

It will be interesting to hear the live broadcast of the last of the three performances this coming Wednesday on RAI3-Euroradio. If Pappano can get that first half to equal the second it will be one of those great nights of opera.

26 novembre - San Corrado


Auld Hat said...

We go to the theatuh to be swept away - it always comes as a huge surprise to me when the performance is off at any point. I guess I just assume perfection at all times. I've known too many theatuh people!

Elizabeth said...

This is the great joy of art to me - how it can confound our expectations and dumbfound and amaze us. Went to the Orangerie while in Paris, having seen SO many Monets - and even water lilly panels - in my life. I had no expectation of anything new to add to my understanding of his work. And the moment I walked in the first room I was stunned, pierced through and through, by the beauty of his vision all around me.

How wonderful for you to be unexpectedly swept away by what started as a boring night of music.

MikeOpera said...

Thanks for the information and update on John Osborn. I always follow the Met auditions and I remember that he was one of those tenors to keep and eye on. I'm glad to see that he's doing well. The tenor music from William Tell is some of the most exciting in all of opera. I love your enthusiasm.

We're going to see a young tenor sensation named Brandon Jovanovich sing Pinkerton on Saturday. The second cast has a guy named James Valenti who has also been taking the opera world by storm.

If the Wm Tell is broadcast on the radio please post the dates so those of us across the pond can try to hear it on internet radio.