ROH review Semiramide

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ROH review Semiramide

Post by lennygoran » Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:00 pm

Now another review from my friend in London-we'll be seeing Semiramide this season at the Met-we saw our very first Semiramide last spring down in Wilmington Delaware-it was wonderful-I don't think Morrison or Beethoven know what they're talking about! Regards, Len :lol:

Richard Morrison gives the production four stars in his Times review:

Beethoven’s advice to Rossini was, roughly, “stick to comic operas, laddie”. Semiramide rather proves his point. This melodramma tragico, Rossini’s last Italian opera, has hours of wonderful music. Yet there’s something so contrived about its tragico element, which fleshes out known facts about the Babylonian queen Semiramide (ie, nothing at all) by mashing together bits of Hamlet (spooky intervention from dead king), Macbeth (murderess unhinged by guilt) and Oedipus Rex (mother inadvertently lusting after son).

You feel that Rossini was more titillated than deeply moved by the story’s possibilities, and especially by being able to toy with the delicious taboo of depicting incest on stage (only toy with it, mind; it took Wagner to go the full Monty). Either way, I don’t think many in the audience would have protested if the Royal Opera had saved several hundred thousand pounds and presented it as a concert performance.

We could still have enjoyed what makes the show worth seeing, or rather hearing. Which is? First, terrific singing. We know what Joyce DiDonato can do, but the challenge of this title role is to make coherent the apparent contradictions in Semiramide’s personality — imperiousness, desperation, guilt and loneliness — and DiDonato does this vocally as much as visually.

She has the surging power, but also the nous to use that sparingly, and deliver much of her music with affecting gentleness in a honeyed sotto voce.

Daniela Barcellona doesn’t have the low-register whoomph to do full justice to the trouser role of Semiramide’s long-lost son, yet her sublime final duet with DiDonato — two voices floating symbolically in parallel thirds that never converge — is a heart-stopping moment. Lawrence Brownlee hits the tenor stratosphere effectively as a random Indian suitor. And, in an unprogrammed bonus, we got two basses for the price of one as the baddie Assur, since Michele Pertusi fell ill in the interval and was seamlessly replaced by the excellent Mirco Palazzi.

When the voices aren’t commanding attention, the Royal Opera orchestra is. I have rarely heard a Rossini score invested with such finesse and fizz as Antonio Pappano’s players do here. Even the most rum-ti-tum accompaniment is given an invigorating lilt. It’s a masterclass in subtlety and surprise.

Sadly, that’s just what David Alden’s staging isn’t. In Paul Steinberg’s overbearingly satirical sets — the giant statues and hagiographical portraits of a modern dictatorship — it’s a lazy mishmash of Soviet and modern Middle Eastern clichés that neither offends nor engages, though occasionally it baffles. One puzzle is why the Princess Azema (a minor love interest) is depicted as an autistic museum exhibit, though frankly I was too busy enjoying the music to care.

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