Top positive review
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Fine performance of Rossini's masterpiece
on 18 July 2011
There is so much in Rossini's mammoth opera which hints at middle Verdi that those, who recognise Rossini in works like Barbiere and L'Italiana, will be amazed coming to this work for the first time at the sheer dramatic verve and musical depth to be found within it. Rarely done on stage because of the demands on the singers, particularly that of the tenor Arnold, I have only seen it once, in Paris in an excellent production with Thomas Hampson as Tell. I was impressed then by the sheer dramatic scope of the work. Of course, there are parts where you hear Rossini churning out standard stuff, but there is much wonderful music here.
The performance recorded live in Rome under the baton of Antonio Pappano, benefits from brisk speeds, which cover some of the duller patches in the score, particularly in the first act. Gerald Finley is a commanding presence as Tell and John Osborn, who I recently saw in another killer tenor role - Raoul de Nangis in Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots, is excellent and has a voice which thrills without sounding strained. Malin Bystrom is also fine as Princess Matilde although she cannot eclipse Caballe in the role on the old EMI recording.
In short, with excellent singers in the subsidiary roles, this is a performance which can be warmly recommended. I did not find a problem with the sound quality, playing the discs through a blu ray surround system.
Live performances of course have pitfalls and it is always irritating to hear calls of bravi! In the theatre it is fine but on disc such noises are a distraction on repeated listening - easy to remove - EMI take note!
I will not part with the old EMI studio recording with Bacquier as Tell but this new one, available at an exceedingly low price, can be heartily recommended.