'"Liberty or Death!" is the battle cry of our autumn season and it introduces a powerful trio of works, lead from the front by William Tell, Rossini’s last great masterpiece. As we tend to be more familiar with his very popular comedies, we might forget that actually Rossini was a predominantly serious composer, but as you will hear in Tell he has the uncanny knack of understanding how powerfully the judicious use of popular or even light music can underpin a serious intention – something that his admirer Shostakovich understood perfectly. The ballet music is a case in point – delicious and irresistibly enjoyable music that is written to satirise a brutal occupying power – the combination packs a punch. Elsewhere on this immense canvas we have a vast choral tapestry of peasant life, ornate bel canto duets for the aristocratic figures of Arnold and Mathilde, and a sublime final chorus whose redemptive embrace opens the door to Wagner.
Tell is supported by the much earlier, biblical drama of Moses in Egypt, a work which starts with the most striking lighting effect ever set to music, when a wave of Moses’ wand breaks the plague of darkness with an incandescent blast of C Major, and ends with the parting of the Red Sea no less!
Tell and Moses discuss the liberty of nations, but Carmen which we also revive in this season celebrates something no less powerful and essential: the liberty of woman.'
David Pountney, Chief Executive and Artistic Director