Rossini Guillaume Tell
Rossini spent several years familiarizing himself with the French language and French prosody before attempting his new grand opera for the Paris Opera and there is no doubt that Guillaume Tell is the genuine article, the Italian Guglielmo Tell a convenient artefact. As Stravinsky once observed: ''Let librettos and texts be published in translation [EMI please note, see below], let synopses and arguments of plots be distributed in advance... but do not change the sound and the stress of words that have been composed to precisely certain music at precisely certain places.'' In this respect, EMl's Tell has the field to itself, and looks like doing so for a number of years to come. The rival Decca set is powerfully cast and conducted, with Riccardo Chailly leading a team that includes Pavarotti, Milnes, Ghiaurov, Freni and such able comprimarios as Della Jones, Richard Van Allan and John Tomlinson; but it is in Italian and sounds at times like middle-period Verdi.
It is, in its way, very fine but the EMI set is also strongly cast in the comprimario roles and has an array of principals who are sensitive to the style and dramatic manner of the French Tell. Bacquier's Tell, rightly, is a sympathetically paternal figure, no fervid rabble-rouser; Gedda's Arnold makes up in sensibility what he lacks in raw virility (in ''Asil hereditaire'' he strikes exactly the right note of heroic regret), and Caballe, the loyal and skilled Rossinian, is a fine Mathilde, the manner regal, the tone limpid, the diction idiomatic.
Rehearing the contributions of Gardelli, the RPO and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus they strike me as being, in places, a shade beefier than I had remembered, but perhaps that is merely a consequence of the general cleanness and impact of the CD transfers of the very good 1973 recording. An important and successful reissue.