Chicago / Tour Opera Review: WILLIAM TELL (Teatro Regio Torino at the Harris Theater)

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by Barnaby Hughes on December 6, 2014

in Theater-Chicago,Tours


Turin, Italy’s Teatro Regio Torino opened its first ever North American tour with a magnificent concert performance of Gioachino Rossini’s William Tell at the Harris Theater on December 3. Energetically conducted by musical director Gianandrea Noseda, the four-stop tour continues with performances in Toronto, New York, and Ann Arbor. William Tell was last performed in Chicago by Lithuanian Opera in 1986.

Orchestra-e-Coro-del-Teatro-Regio-di-Torino-diretti-da-Gianandrea-Noseda-photo by Lorenzo di Nozzi

Rossini’s final opera, William Tell (or Guillaume Tell) premiered in 1829. Its French libretto by Étienne de Jouy and Hippolite Bis was based on the play Wilhelm Tell (1804) by Friedrich Schiller and the French novel Guillaume Tell, ou La Suisse Libre (1812) by Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian. Teatro Regio Torino performs the opera in Italian using the translation of Calisto Bassi, restored in 1988 by Paolo Cattelan. Written in four acts, the opera runs untiringly for roughly four hours, including two intermissions. A wondrous achievement indeed.


Set 700 years ago, William Tell relates more than simply the legend of an expert archer shooting an apple perched on his son’s head. Rather, it tells the story of the Swiss uprising against Austrian domination led by Tell. Much of the action takes place on or beside Lake Lucerne, especially the dramatic episode of William’s maritime escape from the Austrians in the midst of a storm. Adding further fire to this revolutionary tale is the romance of Arnold, whose father Melcthal was executed by the Austrian governor Gessler, and Mathilde, an Austrian princess in Gessler’s care.

Conductor Gianandrea Noseda - photo by Chris Christodoulou.

This concert performance allows Rossini’s stirring music to be the central focus in a way that it would not be in a staged production. Moreover, the extremely sensitive acoustic of the Harris Theater allows every sound to be heard clearly (including every cough and dropped program in the 1,500-seat venue). Noseda takes the opera’s famous overture at a triumphantly swift tempo, stunningly led by the orchestra’s majestic brass section through to its breathtaking conclusion.

Among the soloists, pride of place goes to soprano Angela Meade as Mathilde, tenor John Osborn as Arnoldo, and baritone Luca Salsi as William Tell. Meade doesn’t appear until Act II, but it is certainly worth the wait. The talented soprano’s masterful volume control and effortless coloratura make her melodic Act II aria “S’allontanano alfine” an incredibly moving experience. It comes second only to Osborne’s show-stopping aria “Non mi lasciare” at the beginning of Act IV. Osborn soars and reaches all of his high notes—and there are many—during this arduous vocal workout. Salsi’s deep and versatile baritone dependably drives the action forward, reaching dramatic heights during his Act III aria “Resta immobile.”


There are many more outstanding voices among the cast: Marina Bucciarelli’s light, pretty soprano gives voice to William Tell’s young son Jemmy; and Marco Spotti’s rich, lucid bass burnishes the patriotic role of Gualtiero, one of the Swiss rebel leaders. Most of the opera’s roles are for men, providing a good balance of tenor and bass voices. Under the careful direction of chorus master Claudio Fenoglio, the chorus also reveals a predominance of men. Their voices harmonize beautifully in the rousing dialogue between Tell and the Swiss rebels at the end of Act II.

A masterpiece of the bel canto style, Rossini’s opera deserves to be known for more than just its famous overture. Because it contains so much incredible music, one can begin to understand why Rossini never wrote another opera after William Tell, even though he lived another thirty-six years. Perhaps Rossini knew that he could not surpass it. While Teatro Regio Torino’s concert performance superlatively realizes the composer’s brilliantly difficult score, one can only imagine how much more grandiloquent the opera would be when provided with sets and costumes, the artists acting out their roles. Nevertheless, it is to be hoped that Harris Theater will invite this impressive Italian company back for future engagements.

WILLIAM TELL Teatro Regio Torino, Gianandrea Noseda Conductor.

previous concert photos by Lorenzo di Nozzi
photos of Gianandrea Noseda by Chris Christodoulou

William Tell (Guglielmo Tell) in Concert
Teatro Regio Torino Orchestra & Chorus
Harris Theater for Music and Dance
205 E. Randolph Dr. in Millennium Park
reviewed December 3, 2014
for future events, call 312.334.7777 or visit
tour continues through December 9, 2014
for more info, visit

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