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LABELS: Arthaus
WORKS: Semiramide
PERFORMER: June Anderson, Marilyn Home, Stanford Olsen; Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra/James Conlon; dir. John Copley (NewYork Metropolitan Opera, 1990)
The last of his operas composed for Italy Rossini’s Babylonian epic of crossed loves and murky pasts provided the occasion for some of his grandest structures and most opulent vocal writing. This 1990 Met staging gives it the Cecil B deMille treatment visually, and if John Copley’s production is static there’s no denying the old-fashioned magnificence of sets and costumes.


The cast is led by the post-Sutherland Semiramide of June Anderson, who’s not always quite in tune and as an actress is limited, but she can certainly get around the notes. The role of her warrior son (and nearly lover) Arsace was a Marilyn Home speciality, and she does not disappoint in her majestic, high-powered interpretation. Stanford Olsen is correct but stiff as the visiting Indian king Idreno, Samuel Ramey absolutely in his element as the power-hungry Assur. James Conlon conducts with plenty of concern for the intricate detail of the score.


It’s a long piece and the two discs contain little more than the opera and a trailer, but there are worthwhile booklet articles on Rossini, the piece and the production, with biographies of the main participants. George Hall