Covent Garden’s William Tell is ‘inexcusably nasty’
June 30, 2015 by norman lebrecht
First broadsheet reviews of last night’s storm-tossed production pulls no punches.
Richard Morrison writes on the Times website:
With one inexcusably nasty five-minute sequence, rightly greeted with a performance-stopping furore of boos probably unprecedented in Royal Opera House history, this show went from four stars to one. An over-reaction? Not if you saw 20 men from the chorus pull forward a woman, taunt her, strip her naked and then pile on to rape her. Explicitly and downstage.
That this gratuitous degradation should be presented in 2015 Britain by the nation’s most highly subsidised arts institution shames not only the production’s director, Damiano Michieletto, but also Covent Garden’s chief executive, Alex Beard, and the director of opera, Kasper Holten. Why did they concur? I was shocked to see children in the audience.
Full review here (firewall).
More reviews as they come in.
Michael Church in the Independent:
Tim Ashley in the Guardian:
The Royal Opera is, perhaps, going to have to start reconsidering its priorities and its relationship with its audience after the first night of Damiano Michieletto’swretched new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell. The groundswell of concern about the bifurcation between musical excellence and weak theatrical standards at Covent Garden has been gathering for some time now. Michieletto’s decision to re-cast the third act ballet – in which the tyrannical Gesler’s henchmen force a group of girls to dance with them – as a protracted and pruriently voyeuristic gang rape, resulted in an immediate reaction of unprecedented anger, as sustained booing swept through the auditorium, drowning out the music, and continuing until the end of the episode.
A few individuals carried on heckling the singers – unfairly – through to the start of Act IV. Not everyone, it should be added, had got that far. People were voting with their feet as well as their voices: quite a few had already left during the second interval.
Alexandra Coghlan in the Spectator:
Let’s talk instead about how Michieletto’s production — lazy in concept, violently ugly in execution — doesn’t earn the extremity of that scene. There’s an emotional and dramatic void at the core of the show, partly born of Rossini’s ponderous score (which has moments of astonishing beauty and drama, unfortunately stitched together into a rather unwieldy whole), but mostly sucked hollow by a director who misunderstands his material. To include all the opera’s ballet music but to deny it any dancers is misguided; to supplement that lack with second-rate mime from the singers is just plain wilful.
VIDEO: How they booed the director (starts at 4:10)
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