Rossini: Semiramide

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Semiramide
PERFORMER: Cheryl Studer, Samuel Ramey, Jennifer Larmore, Frank Lopardo, Julia Faulkner, Jan-Hendrik RooteringAmbrosian Opera Chorus, LSO/Ion Marin
Semiramide is high-octane opera on a grand scale. Gaetano Rossi’s libretto is based on characters from Voltaire’s tragedy, drenched in passion, revenge and lust, and Rossini’s music reflects this powerful and intoxicating mix. Premiered at La Fenice in 1823, it was the last opera Rossini wrote for the Italian theatre. The only other recording of Semiramide was made by Decca nearly 30 years ago with Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne, conducted by Richard Bonynge – an undisputed gem now available at mid- price. The new DG recording uses Philip Gossett’s and Alberto Zedda’s 1990 critical edition of Rossini’s score. This is not vastly different in terms of musical content but has definitely resulted in differences of style (less ornamented while still retaining stunning florid passages) and delivery (Studer’s weightier, dramatic style as Semiramide compared to Sutherland’s shimmering cut-glass crystal sound, and Larmore’s vibrant, creamy lower lines as Arsace contrasted with Horne’s plummy, gutsy depths). Frank Lopardo is in resplendent vocal form, delivering an electrifying Idreno. Samuel Ramey’s flexible, resonant bass has a few strained moments as Assur and he seems to have been set too far back at times in this recording. Marin revels in Rossini’s score but occasionally he can be too unyielding and metronomic for the singers. Overall though, a full-blooded, dynamic delivery of Rossini at his colourful and dramatic best. Elise McDougall