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William Tell

Palais Theatre
14 Jul 2018 - 19 Jul 2018

Epic, Legendary, Unmissable.


The legendary tale of the sharp-shooting hero on a quest for freedom makes for grand opera: a struggle for liberty from oppression and the courage that victory demands.

Rossini’s final masterwork, famed for its iconic overture, will be staged in Australia for the first time in over a century. Epic opera demands epic staging and director Rodula Gaitanou (Royal Opera House, Opera Holland Park) and designers Simon Corder and Esther Marie Hayes tackle Tell with grit and grandeur. Victorian Opera’s Artistic Director Richard Mills conducts an all-star cast of the finest singers from Australia and abroad.

Hope illuminates a darkened world in this striking new production.


Palais Theatre, St Kilda

Saturday 14 July 7:30pm
Tuesday 17 July 7:30pm
Thursday 19 July 7:30pm*

Running time is approximately 3 hours, plus interval.

Sung in French with English surtitles

Armando Noguera as William Tell, Alexandra Flood as Jemmy, Gisela Stille as Mathilde and Paolo Pecchioli as Gesler. Photo: Jeff Busby

Once-in-a-lifetime operatic event

Rarely staged because of its epic length and formidable score, it has been over 140 years since William Tell was performed in Australia. Created in 1829 for the Paris Opera in the tradition of grand opéra – extravagant spectacles designed by multiple committees – it was not intended to be always performed in full. Rossini wrote additional music to be selected or cut depending on the scale of each production.

From the original five hours of music, our version will come in at around three hours, with a focus on the narrative and dramatic aspects which will grip modern audiences. This action-packed epic tells the story of the struggle against oppression of a pastoral community against a mechanised military power, as well as the personal conflicts of romance and family that are key to any great drama. Expect a mix of traditional and contemporary with a dystopian costume design inspired by The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale against a set evoking the traditional Swiss alpine environment.

Not only is William Tell full of great musical set pieces and arias whose brilliance and difficulty are legendary, it also contains some thrilling ensemble and chorus work. One of the challenges of staging William Tell is the difficulty of finding three tenors to hit the 19 high Cs.

Befitting an epic opera, this will be the largest production Victorian Opera has ever staged with the greatest international contingent, the biggest chorus (48 members) and the most costumes created for a single production. It will be epic in all senses of the word.

So, if there’s one operatic event you want to be there for in 2018, it’s William Tell. Its appearance on the Australian stage is a historical event in itself, but its message continues to resonate in our increasingly divided modern world: hope for a better world and the possibility of living in harmony.

Have a listen to the William Tell Overture. At 9:00 there's the famous Finale which you might have heard in the odd TV show or movie.

Extract from The Great Rossini Overtures, Ola Rudner conducts Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO) , ABC Classics 2004.

Story & Music

The story

In a Swiss pastoral community on the shore of Lake Lucerne, villagers are suffering under oppressive Austrian rule led by the tyrannical Gesler. William Tell, a skilled bowman and an expert boatman, dreams of justice and liberation.

Arnold is torn between his patriotic duty and his love for Mathilde, Gesler’s sister. After his father is killed by Gesler’s men, Arnold vows to join Tell and local rebels in their fight for freedom.

When Gesler forces the villagers to pay respect to his hat on a pole to assert his domination, William Tell refuses. As punishment, Gesler sadistically makes him shoot an apple off his son’s head. Tell succeeds and accidentally reveals that he had a second arrow ready to kill Gesler if he had missed.

Tell is taken by boat to be imprisoned in a fortress across the lake. When a raging storm hits he uses his nautical skills to guide the boat back to shore and jumps off, killing Gesler with a lethal arrow. The Swiss patriots triumph against enemy forces and celebrate their victory. Mathilde and Arnold are reunited and affirm their love for each other. As the Ranz des Vaches (‘Call to the Cows’) plays for the final time, light is restored to Switzerland proving there can be a happy ending at the opera.

The music

Thrilling ensembles, chorus work, musical scene painting, and vocal virtuosity represent the highest development of Rossini’s art. His music has the power to sustain a narrative, to create atmosphere and to reveal the inner drama of the story that remains fresh and vital in our own time.

Rossini uses the orchestra in more elaborate textures that in any of his other work. The famous Overture begins with a concerto for the cello section building to the well-known solo for the cor anglais based on the Ranz des Vaches (‘Call to the Cows’) and the galloping passage of The Lone Ranger fame. The horns are central to creating Swiss colour and the sense of a community deeply connected to nature.

Musical highlights include Arnold’s celebrated Act IV aria ‘Asile héréditaire’, Tell’s ‘Sois immobile’ aria before the apple shot, the unique trio in Act II, and one of the most wonderful finales written in opera.


Cast & Crew

Composer Gioachino Rossini
Librettists V.J. Etienne de Jouy and H.L.F. Bis

Creative team

Conductor Richard Mills AM
Director Rodula Gaitanou
Set and Lighting Design Simon Corder
Costume Design Esther Marie Hayes


Guillaume Tell Armando Noguera
Arnold Melcthal Carlos E. Bárcenas
Walter Furst Jeremy Kleeman
Melcthal Teddy Tahu Rhodes
Jemmy Alexandra Flood
Gesler Paolo Pecchioli*
Rodolphe Paul Biencourt
Ruodi Timothy Reynolds
Leuthold Jerzy Kozlowski
Mathilde Gisela Stille
Hedwige Liane Keegan

*Paolo Pecchioli appears with the support of the University of Melbourne.


Orchestra Victoria

Carlos E. Bárcenas as Arnold and Gisela Stille as Mathilde. Photo: Jeff Busby


“★★★★★ Glorious music.”

Time Out Melbourne, 16 July 2018

“★★★★ Victorian Opera hits another bullseye.”

Limelight Magazine, 15 July 2018

“★★★★ Armando Noguera is an outstanding Tell.”

The Age, 15 July 2018

“★★★★ Victorian Opera has gone where other Australian companies fear to tread, and emerged all the better for it.”

ArtsHub, 16 July 2018

In association with

the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne