Swiss folk hero William Tell gets own musical

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William Tell, the Swiss folk hero famed for shooting an apple off his son's head, will be the subject of a musical that opens July 18, producers said Wednesday.

"Tell the Musical" will be performed outdoors against the backdrop of mountain-ringed Lake Walensee, 70 kilometers (43 miles) southeast of Zurich, the play's producers told a press conference.

It follows in the footsteps of other musicals celebrating Swiss nationalism, including one devoted to fictional heroine Heidi.

According to legend, William Tell rose to fame in the 14th century for snubbing a man named Gessler, a hated bailiff who ruled over Tell's central Swiss homeland on behalf of the Habsburg monarchy.

A Swiss Broadcasting Corporation website on Tell says Gessler had placed a hat on a pole and required passersby to bow to it in a sign of loyalty to the royal family.

Infuriated when Tell ignored the hat, Gessler ordered the renowned marksman to shoot an apple off his son's head with a crossbow. Tell split the apple in two, the first of a string of heroic feats remembered as an everyman's fight for dignity under the Austrian overlords.

Director Nico Rabenald said his William Tell will be a simple family man who becomes a hero despite himself.

Organisers said they hope the production, budgeted at 5.5 million francs (4.6 million euros, $6.0 million), will draw an audience of 40,000 during its 25-performance run.

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