Edwige, la moglie di Guglielmo, lo convince a benedire gli sposi. Il rimprovero del padre provoca in Arnold uno sfogo di disperazione, dove dichiara tutto il suo amore per Mathilde, una principessa asburgica a cui aveva precedentemente salvato la vita da una valanga. Guglielmo lo segue. Egli vuole fuggire sulla riva opposta di un torrente, ma il vile Ruodi si rifiuta di portarlo nella sua barca, temendo che la corrente e le rocce rendano mortale il viaggio.
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The fisherman, Ruodi, sings a gentle love song from his boat to orchestral accompaniment from the harps and flutes. The horns also signal the arrival of Melchthal, a respected elder of the canton. He is persuaded by Hedwige to bless the couples at the celebration. However, his son Arnold, though of marriageable age, is not participating and is evidently uncomfortable. Tell invites Melchthal into his chalet; before they move off, Melchthal chides his son for his failure to marry.
Horn fanfares herald the approach of Gesler, the Austrian governor, whom the Swiss detest, and his entourage. Arnold moves off to greet their arrival, as Mathilde will accompany them, but is stopped by Tell. Inquiring as to where Arnold is going, Tell persuades him to consider joining the planned rebellion against the governor. The expressive duet in which this takes place again shows the tension Arnold feels between his love for Mathilde and the "fatherland" Ah!
O my fatherland, my heart sacrifices to you By the end of the exchange, Arnold is prepared to confront Gesler the moment he arrives; Tell persuades him to at least let the festival pass in peace, but knows he has gained a convert to the cause of freedom. The villagers then reassemble, and Melchthal blesses the couples.
He seeks to escape to the opposite shore, but the cowardly Ruodi refuses to take him in his boat, fearing that the current and the rocks make approaching the opposite bank impossible. Melchthal urges the villagers not to tell Rodolphe who it was who aided Leuthold, and is taken prisoner by the guards. Mathilde, however, lingers, believing she has glimpsed Arnold in the vicinity. Arnold appears, and each confesses to the other their desire for this meeting. Urging him to "return to the fields of glory", Mathilde assures him of the eventual acceptability of his suit, and leaves at the approach of Tell and Walter.
They question Arnold as to why he loves Mathilde, a member of the oppressing Austrians. Arnold, offended by their spying, declares his intention to continue fighting for the Austrians, and thus gain glory, rather than liberty.
O crime! As the three men affirm their dedication — "to independence or death" — they hear the sound of someone else approaching. It is the men of the canton of Unterwalden coming to join the fight, and describing their journey in a rather gentle refrain Nous avons su braver.
In quick succession, they are joined by the men of Schwyz En ces temps de malheurs and Uri Guillaume, tu le vois. The gathering is complete, and the tone and tempo of the finale rises as the men of the three cantons affirm their willingness to fight or die for the freedom of Switzerland Jurons, jurons par nos dangers — "Let us swear, let us swear by our dangers".
Plans are made to arm the cantons and to rise up when "the beacons of vengeance burn". Scene 2: The main square at Altdorf The day is the hundredth anniversary of Austrian rule in Switzerland. Soldiers sing of the glories of Gesler and the Emperor. In commemoration, Gesler has had his hat placed on top of a pole and the Swiss are ordered and then forced to pay homage to the hat. Gesler commands that there should be dancing and singing to mark the century during which the empire has "deigned to sustain [Swiss] weakness", and a variety of dances and choruses follow.
Soldiers have noticed Tell and his son in the crowd, refusing to pay homage to the hat, and drag him forward. Gesler notices the affection Tell has for his son, and has Jemmy seized. The assembled Swiss are horrified at this cruelty, but Jemmy urges his father to courage, and refuses to be tied up for the challenge.
Resigned, Tell retrieves his bow from the soldiers, but takes two arrows from his quiver and hides one of them. He sings an anguished aria to Jemmy, instructing him Sois immobile — "Stay completely still" , and the two separate. Finally, Tell draws his bow, shoots, and drives the arrow through the apple and into the stake. The people acclaim his victory, and Gesler is enraged. Noticing the second arrow, he demands to know what Tell intended for it.
Tell confesses his desire to kill Gesler with the second arrow, and both he and Jemmy are seized for execution. Rodolphe expresses concern at attempting a journey on the lake in the storm, but Gesler intends to force Tell, an expert boatman, to pilot the vessel. They leave, amid conflicting cries of "Anathema on Gesler" from the people, and "Long live Gesler" from the soldiers.
Home of my forefathers". Would-be "confederates" arrive, sharing and reinforcing his hope of vengeance. Revived, Arnold points them to the weapons cache that his father and Tell had prepared. Seeing the men armed, Arnold launches into the hugely demanding Amis, amis, secondez ma vengeance — "Friends, friends, assist my vengeance" , replete with multiple and sustained top Cs.
Resolved, they leave to storm Altdorf and free Tell. Scene 2: The rocky shore of Lake Lucerne Hedwige is wandering by the lake, distraught. In the distance, she hears Jemmy calling. Her son enters, along with Mathilde, whom Hedwige entreats for assistance.
In some versions, Mathilde, Jemmy and Hedwige sing a moving trio Je rends a votre amour un fils digne de vous — "I return to your love a son worthy of you". Jemmy tells his mother that Tell is no longer in Altdorf, but on the lake, at which point Hedwige begins precipitously to mourn Sauve Guillaume!
Il meurt victime de son amour pour son pays — "Save William! He dies a victim of his love for his country". The boat pulls into view, and Tell jumps ashore before pushing the boat back.
He is amazed to see his house burning in the distance. Gesler and the soldiers come into view, intent on recapturing Tell, who kills Gesler with a single shot and the cry, "Let Switzerland breathe!
Arnold and his band enter, and break the happy news: they have taken Altdorf. Arnold sees Mathilde, who declares herself "disabused of false grandeur" and ready to join the fight for liberty at his side. The clouds break, and the sun shines on a pastoral scene of wild beauty. The gathered Swiss fighters and women sing a paean to the magnificence of nature and the return of freedom in a lyrical C major Tout change et grandit en ces lieux Liberty, descend again from heaven" as the ranz des vaches motif returns once again and finally.
Guglielmo Tell (opera)