11 May 2009

ROSSINI: Guglielmo Tell — Rome 1954

Guglielmo Tell: Melodramma tragico in four acts

Music composed by Gioacchino Rossini. Libretto by Étienne de Jouy and Hippolyte-Louis-Florent Bis based on Friedrich von Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell.

First Performance: 3 August 1829, Paris Opéra.

Principal Roles:
Guglielmo Tell Bass
Arnoldo, Amante Di Matilde Tenor
Gualtiero Fürst Bass
Melchthal, Padre Di Arnoldo Bass
Jemmy, Figlio Di Guglielmo Soprano
Edwige, Moglie Di Guglielmo Mezzo-Soprano
Un Pescatore Tenor
Leutoldo Bass
Gessler, Governatore Bass
Matilde, Principessa Di Hasbourg Soprano
Rodolfo, Seguace Di Gessler Tenor

Setting: Switzerland in the 13th century, near Altdorf in the canton of Uri


Prior to the start of the opera, Arnold, son of the Swiss leader Melcthal, has rescued Mathilde, an Austrian princess, from drowning. In spite of the political situation, Arnold and Mathilde have fallen in love.

Act I

It is the day of the Shepherd Festival, in May, near Lake Lucerne. Per tradition, Melchtal blesses the couples at the celebration. However, Arnold excludes himself from this privilege, as he is torn between his love for his country and his love for Mathilde. Horn fanfares interrupt the festival, and herald the arrival of Gesler, the Austrian Governor, whom the Swiss detest. Leuthold then enters, pursued by Gesler’s forces. One of Gesler’s soldiers has attempted to assault Leuthold’s daughter, and Leuthold killed the soldier to defend her. He wishes to escape, and the lake is the only route. William Tell offers his assistance. Gesler’s guards arrive, led by Rodolphe. Leuthold manages to escape with the help of Tell, but as reprisal, Gesler’s guards take Melchtal prisoner.

Act II

In a valley by a lake, Arnold and Mathilde meet and again pledge their love. Tell and Walter arrive, and inform Arnold that Gesler has ordered the execution of Melcthal. Arnold vows vengeance. Arnold, Tell and Walter swear an oath to liberate Switzerland. They inspire the cantons to unite in this quest.


At the market-place in Altdorf, the day is the hundredth anniversary of Austrian rule in Switzerland. In commemoration, Gesler has had his hat placed on top of a pole and the Swiss are ordered to pay homage to the hat. Tell arrives with his son Jemmy. Tell refuses to honour the hat. Gesler recognises Tell as the man who saved Leuthold, and wants to punish him somehow. He orders Tell to shoot an apple from Jemmy’s head, in the hope that Tell will harm his son. Tell is successful in piercing the apple, and tells Gesler that had the shot failed, he would have used his next arrow against him. Gesler orders Tell to be arrested.

Act IV

A Swiss rebel army arrives, and battle ensues. Tell kills Gesler with an arrow through the heart. The Swiss emerge victorious. Mathilde and Arnold, secure in their love, reunite at the close.

[Synopsis Source: Wikipedia]

Click here for the complete libretto.