Gioachino Rossini wrote 39 operas, the last of which was Semiramide. It is considered by many his best and is certainly one of the most difficult in the repertoire. Finding 6 principals who excel in the bel canto [beautiful singing] style at the same time, is almost impossible. Semiramide is included in the 2017-18 season at the Met. in New York and one screened live in HD throughout the world for the 8th year running, a vital source of income to keep opera alive at the Met. It has an audience of over 350.000 viewers in 70 countries bringing opera fans worldwide to see opera at its best.
The opera was first performed in Venice in 1823. It is a marvel of decorative singing and requires singers of remarkable skill. Everything about this opera is huge. The orchestra, chorus, people, costumes and sets are displayed in this amazing theatre of 4,000 seats to maximum advantage. Semiramide has a long history of sitting on the shelve. It has taken 25 years to find the singers able to do justice to this magnificent work.
Isabella Colbran, Rossini's 2nd wife, a great dramatic soprano, was the inspiration for this and many of his great dramatic roles. In his usual manner, he completed the score for Semiramide in 33 days. The music is pure pleasure, Rossini's bubbly music is compared to champagne. It was first performed in Venice in 1823 to great acclaim.
Operas have extraordinary plots and Semiramide is no exception. This all-star cast features Angela Meade [Semiramide] as the Queen of Babylon who murders her husband and almost unwittingly, after a long courtship, marries her son. It has ancient rituals, murder, ghosts, love, incest and loads of terror. It takes 3 hours to get this lot sorted even with 45 minutes cut from the score.
Meade has the technique and stamina to lead this impressive cast. She first conquered this role in 2009 and has continued singing bel canto roles around the world. One of her recent triumphs was 'Norma' this season at the Met. She has a shining coloratura technique and sparkling high notes. She floats to a high F with ease. Her voice blended beautifully with Elizabeth De Shong, a new mezzo with an amazing future ahead and dare I say almost stole the show. De Shong takes the trouser part of Asace, Semiramide's lover come son, who rightly takes the throne from his mother [are you following?] after she is killed. The love duets between these two rival those between the recordings with Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne. Sutherland performed the opera at la Scala in Milan in 1962.
Javier Camarena is hailed as the new Pavarotti, king of the high C's. The duets with the women of his dreams, again De Shong [you are following] are unforgettable, a great day for opera lovers. The voices of the 3 bass-baritones are as expected, booming, powerful and stern.
The huge orchestra was kept in check by Maurizio Benini. The overture is regularly used at concerts around the world, much loved as many of Rossini's works are.
There are still 3 operas left in this season at the Met. The next being Mozart's comic opera 'Cosi fan tutte' which will be screened at the Avoca Beach Picture Theatre in the coming months, along with the exciting programme which Beth has chosen for the winter months.