Sometimes it is good to know that you can still hit a nerve. Italian director Damiano Michieletto certainly did with his new production of Rossini's Guillaume Tell, which opened earlier this week at the Royal Opera in London. As reported by Rupert Christiansen for The Telegraph, the booing started long before the curtain call:
Unprecedentedly at Covent Garden, the abusive heckling threatened to turn nasty while the opera was actually still in progress, as a nameless female character was pruriently stripped naked and raped in blatant contradiction to the spirit of the music. [...] But what can one say about Damiano Michieletto’s dismally banal production, which drains the opera of all its romantic nationalism and bucolic charm without putting anything enriching its place? [...]Ah, the dumb show going with an overture or ballet music, where so many directors go so far awry. No word from Christiansen, though, on whether the supernumerary actress was fat.
In the interests of keeping it all gritty, the music for the ballet sequences becomes the pretext for elaborate dumb shows, the second of which gratuitously and graphically depicts the aforementioned gang rape. This caused a near-riot of protest in the Gods, with which I warmly sympathised.
If this sort of interpretation represents the future of opera, then God help us all.