This production, from the late 1980s, is from La Scala and had been released previously on both DVD and VHS, but I've heard those were in an inferior transfer. This 2 DVD set is from the original RAI television production and the visuals are quite sharp, the sound lifelike. The stage setting itself features a singing area up front that is rather generic but allows for credible movement of the chorus and principals. The background is made of up of three huge projections of appropriately selected video scenes from the Swiss countryside, primarily of forest and mountain views, and although it is occasionally distracting, it is spectacular scenery and contributes to the sylvan mood of the opera.
The direction by Riccardo Muti is characteristically top-notch. He is clearly a conductor for whom the Rossini score means a great deal. The Scala orchestra, which appears larger than usual in this production, is very fine. (The famous overture is played brilliantly.) The principals, Americans Cheryl Studer as Matilde and Chris Merritt as Arnoldo, the romantic leads, are world-class. Studer later had vocal troubles, but at the time of this production she sounded to be in good vocal health. Merritt, then at the height of his fame as a Rossini tenor, is thrilling. The other principals include a believably heroic and sonorous Giorgio Zancanaro as William Tell, Luigi Roni as Gessler, the villain, Giorgio Surjan as Gualtiero, and a too-young but vocally effective Franco de Grandis as Melchtal, Arnoldo's father. Tell's two children, Jemmy and Edwige are nicely done by Amelia Felle and Ludicana D'Intino. Ballet sequences are appropriately rustic and the sparkling dancing of prima ballerina Carla Fracci is a real delight.
It is wonderful to have the uncut 'Guglielmo Tell,' but it is hard to sit through the whole almost four hours without a break. I broke it up into two evenings' viewing, two acts each evening. There are no extras with the DVD except for English subtitles (which is the default setting). There is a complete Italian libretto printed in the provided booklet.