We pass onto to the opera itself. Our first piece is a duet between the title hero of the opera and Arnoldo.
Narratively, it follows Tell as he notices that Arnoldo is trying to sneak away from the festivities of the Shepherd Festival, in hopes of seeing Matilde, his beloved, but a member of the Austrian aristocracy, Gessler's niece, in fact. Tell clearly sees that something is tearing his young compatriot apart and tries to make Arnoldo open op to him. Their discussion is cut short by the sound of horns of Gessler's followers who are approaching the village. Arnoldo, growing ever more agitated, truly accepts Tell's call to arms but the final stretta finds him still unsure of what to choose: his love or his homeland.
Remember the classical Rossinian succession of "moderato - andante - allegro"? Well, forget it for now, as the present duet is something completely different. What would a traditional treatment of the scene be? Well, it's obvious that there would be two opening statements for the heros, some dialogue leading to a melting andante as Arnoldo torments himself over his duty and Tell continues to be baffled, another dialogue would lead into a call-to-arms stretta as both appraise the glory of their homeland. But here we get something refreshing: instead of using the above-mentioned possibility, Rossini crafts a true dialogue between the protagonists, the main part of the duet is set to an agitated string accompaniment that almost become a ground bass as its' figures are repeated several times. Thus, we get a true meeting of two people, one obviously trying to get away from his compatriot, the other imploring him to explain the source of his unhappiness. The first part of the duet, before the sound of horns further destroys Arnoldo's peace of mind, has only two concentrated passages: a repeated moderato section as Arnoldo asks himself what he should do. The section is then raised up, providing Arnoldo with opportunities to show off his high notes and raising the stakes of the drama. The "stretta" is actually almost a solo piece, as it primarily features Arnoldo's lyrical outpourings with several urging phrases from Tell. Only the final coda is close to the classical stretta idiom, with both acclaiming their duty. All in all, something truly untraditional but exceptional.
Luciano Pavarotti and Sherrill Milnes provide us with some spectacular singing while painting a vivid picture of the two compatriots. Enjoy :)!