Semiramide was a relatively new discovery for me, but a fine discovery it was. It is one of Rossini's longest operas and doesn't always have the most believable of all stories. That said, the story is interesting, and the music being Rossini is fantastic, full of colour and his distinctive style.
I thought the Met production would be a perfect way to see Semiramide on stage, having heard it on recording initially with Sutherland. And it was excellent! The whole production is kept at a lively pace, beautifully played by the orchestra and stylishly conducted.
The costumes are excellent, and the sets are truly lavish. Thanks to the atmospheric lighting, clear picture quality and clever video directing, the colour looks amazing. The chorus are perhaps on the static side in their acting, but the singing is as buoyant and as musical as ever.
When it comes to the four leads, two are very good, two are superb. Let me start with the two very good performances. One is Stanford Olsen. Idreno is a rather colourless role, but Olsen sings with style and grace with a voice that doesn't sound laboured, coarse or nasal like some Rossini tenors and his acting is more than stand-and-deliver quality. The other is June Anderson in the title role. She has a great voice and colouratura, she is beautiful and she does show signs of good acting such as in her ghost scene. What stops me from liking Anderson a little more is that she doesn't always convince me as a murderess.
Which brings me to the superb performances. Samuel Ramey is one, not only is his voice velvety and rich, but he is very commanding in the role of Assur. His act 2 Mad scene is a tour-De-force. Marilyn Horne for me gives the production's best performance, to me she is one of the best Rossini mezzo sopranos and Arsace is no exception. Hearing Horne, you are expected impeccable passage-work and runs, clarity and beauty in everything she sings. All of these are present here.
Overall, excellent. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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