Opera

Gioachino Rossini

Guillaume Tell

Text Friedrich Schiller

Friday 8. March 2024 18:30 – 22:30 2 Intermissions Main Stage
Werkeinführung
30 Minuten vor der Vorstellung
im Gustav Mahler-Saal

Cast at
8. March 2024

Inszenierung

David Pountney

Bühnenbild und Kostüme

Richard Hudson

Lichtgestaltung

Robert Bryan

Chorleitung

Thomas Lang

Choreographie

Renato Zanella

About the Production

Short Summary

Guillaume Tell, after Schiller, tells the legend of the Swiss freedom hero William Tell with the imposing and lavish means of the French Grand Opéra.

At the center is the famous apple shot: When Tell refuses to bow before the hat of the cruel Gesler, who has been appointed by the Austrian occupiers, the latter forces him to shoot at an apple, which is placed on the head of Tell's son Jemmy. Tell succeeds in taking the master shot and, in the end, the Swiss are able to drive out the occupying forces.

Guillaume Tell

Storyline

A mountain idyll in the village of Bürglen, Canton Uri. People praise the beauty of nature, the fisherman Ruodi sings a love song, wedding preparations are made.

William Tell ponders the fate of his homeland, which is under the tyranny of the Habsburgs. Old Melchthal and his son Arnold appear; while the father is a universally respected figure, Arnold was in the service of the Austrian occupiers. Alone, he raves about his secret love for the Habsburg princess Mathilde, whom he rescued from an avalanche.

Tell recognizes that the young man is depressed and tries to win him over to the Swiss cause. Arnold reluctantly assures him that he is on the side of his countrymen at this moment of rebellion. He steals away from the wedding ceremony that follows, where his father blesses the couple. The arrival of the harried Leuthold interrupts the festivities; he has killed one of the bailiff's soldiers in order to protect his daughter's honor. Tell brings Leuthold to safety from his pursuers by rowing him through dangerous currents to the other shore.

The Swiss cheer, while Rudolf, the leader of the arriving Austrian commando, indignantly demands that the name of the man who saved the "murderer" be revealed. When the farmers refuse, old Melchthal is killed and the village is destroyed.

Gesler's hunting party moves across the Rütli. Mathilde separates herself and confides her secret love for Arnold to nature.

Her lover appears and vows to prove himself worthy of her through military successes in the service of the Austrians. When Tell and Walter arrive, Mathilde flees the rendezvous. The men only persuade Arnold to join their conspiracy when they inform him that his father has been murdered by the Austrians. Men from the cantons of Unterwalden, Schwyz and Uri appear. They all solemnly swear to fight under Tell's command.

Arnold and Mathilde meet in secret.

When the distraught Arnold tells of his father's murder, Mathilde realizes that their love has no future. Sounds of the Gesler troops' morning roll call filter in and the lovers bid each other farewell. On the market square in Altdorf, Gesler orders celebrations to mark the centenary of Austrian rule in Switzerland. Gesler orders all those present to salute his hat reverently. Only Tell refuses to bow.

Tell is arrested and disarmed; his son Jemmy, whom he wants to send away to give the signal to rise up, is also held back by Gesler's troops. The bailiff puts Jemmy's life in Tell's hands: he is to shoot an apple from his son's head. To the cheers of the crowd, the feat succeeds. When Tell confesses to having intended a second arrow for the bailiff, he is put in chains by the furious Gesler. Mathilde, who has rushed over, manages to place Tell's son under her protection. Gesler intends to take the defenceless Tell to Küssnacht that evening, where the freedom fighter is to meet his death.

Moved, Arnold bids farewell to his father's house.

Arriving comrades, who tell him about Tell's arrest, rouse him from his contemplation. Arnold leads them with the battle cry "Victory or death". Tell's wife Hedwig decides to confront the bailiff in order to save her husband and son. Mathilde arrives with Jemmy. She offers herself as a pledge for Tell's return. Jemmy soon runs off to light the signal fire for the rebels. In the storm that breaks out, Gesler's boat, steered by Tell, approaches.

Tell manages to flee ashore and shoots his crossbow at the tyrant. Arnold, who has rushed ashore with the Swiss troops and in the meantime liberated Altdorf, learns of Gesler's death. The storm subsides, revealing a magnificent landscape, to whose praise the liberated Swiss gather.

Act 1 65 min
Intermission 20 min
Act 2 50 min
Intermission 25 min
Act 3 & 4 80 min

In his interpretation, director David Pountney opted for a symbolic visual language in which he deliberately parodied the folkloristic element of the work. He also played with scales. For example, in deliberate contrast to the scaled-down Alpine-style houses, he created two giant dolls several meters high, which act as a pair of superparents around whom everyone else is gathered. This is intended to suggest the impression of an extended family united against the foreign ruler. In addition, Pountney spans an arc from the apparent idyll at the beginning through destruction, chaos and battle to the truly idyllic final tableaux, including a miniature village landscape, which corresponds atmospherically with the cathartic hymn mentioned above.

With his last stage work, Guillaume Tell, which premiered in 1829, Rossini created a completely new score for Paris, which became one of the most decisive contributions to the newly emerging genre of grand opéra. In addition to the fight for freedom, Rossini was also interested in the depiction of landscape and natural events, which are repeatedly interwoven with the plot elements. Beginning in the multi-part overture (with its final section, which has become a hit) and most clearly in the fourth and final act, in which the violent storm symbolizes the outbreak of the uprising and the shooting of the hated tyrant Gesler, as well as the subsequent clearing of the sky for the freedom that has been won. In the concluding hymn, both poles, the struggle for freedom and nature, finally experience a cathartic fusion.

In his search for suitable material, Rossini was guided by the prevailing political climate, which, as the music publicist Fedele D'Amico and the musicologist Sabine Henze-Döhring emphasize, "favoured themes such as freedom and independence". Rossini and his two librettists thus decided to devote themselves to the William Tell material. While the character of Tell in Schiller's opera is a man aloof from politics who only gradually becomes a rebel, in Rossini's opera he is a fervent patriot from the very beginning, driven by a Switzerland "weeping for its freedom".

© Wiener Staatsoper
© Wiener Staatsoper
© Wiener Staatsoper
© Wiener Staatsoper
© Wiener Staatsoper
© Wiener Staatsoper
© Wiener Staatsoper

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