Palais Theatre, St Kilda
July 14, 2018

Bastille Day was an ideal day to open a season of William Tell, Rossini’s well known but rarely performed opera about the Swiss freedom-fighter. With a final plea that “liberty descend once again from the heavens” this extravagantly told tale about Swiss liberation from the yoke of Teutonic oppression resonates with French revolutionary ideals, with liberty, expressions of fraternity and equality throughout.

Armando Noguera and Paolo Pecchioli. Photographs @ Jeff Busby

With an absolute cracker of an overture, you might expect this opera to be performed at least every once and a while. In fact, this is the first fully staged production of the work in Australia since 1876! There are two underlying problems preventing performances. The first is the sheer length of the original. To crack the Paris market (which he did with this, his final opera), Rossini had to provide substantial ballet music which pushed an average show out to the five-hour mark. Secondly, the opera requires a relatively large number of quality principals, especially the tenors, who have to produce an extraordinary number of high Cs.

Top marks, then, to Richard Mills, VO’s intrepid...