Viewpoint: Hitting the Mark

by F. Paul Driscoll.

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Finley and hair and makeup artist Elizabeth Rita at Glyndebourne
© Benjamin Ealovega

ONE OF THE MUST-SEE EVENTS at the Metropolitan Opera this month is the return of Rossini’s masterwork Guillaume Tell to the company after an absence of more than eighty years. Although the opera’s grand scale has prevented Guillaume Tell from achieving standard repertory status, its musical excellence and importance have never been in doubt. Peter G. Davis’s superb article, “Rossini’s Last Stand,” the story behind the 1829 world premiere of what was to be Rossini’s final stage work, begins on page 30. Tell arrived at the Met in 1884, during the company’s second season, when it was sung in German—as were all the operas in the Met’s repertory at that time, including Don Giovanni and Carmen. The Met’s next production of the opera, ten years later, was sung in Italian and featured an impressive cast headed by Francesco Tamagno, the creator of Verdi’s Otello, as Arnold. The opera was given its third production by the Met in January 1923, when Gennaro Papi paced Rosa Ponselle (Mathilde), Giovanni Martinelli (Arnold) and Giuseppe Danise (Tell). Tell’s most recent Met performance before the current season was on December 5, 1931—a moment in history when Herbert Hoover was President of the U.S., Jimmy Walker was mayor of New York City, and the hit movies of the season were Frankenstein and The Champ.

Thanks to its beloved overture—a concert-hall staple for more than a century—Guillaume Tell has never been truly absent from our collective musical consciousness, but the return of the opera to the Met has been eagerly awaited. The local premiere of Pierre Audi’s staging, the company’s first performances of the opera in the original French, will feature Fabio Luisi conducting a particularly distinguished cast. The title role will be in the capable hands of this month’s cover subject, Gerald Finley, the great Canadian baritone who has made Rossini’s hero one of his specialties. spacer 

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