About Superconductor

Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2018 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Semiramide

Angela Meade seizes power in ancient Babylon
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Angela Meade (center) is the titular Queen Semiramide in the Met's Rossini grand opera.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Metropolitan Opera presents Semiramide, a four-act Italian grand opera by Rossini that was the composer's final opera for the stage of his native country. Angela Meade sings the daunting title role, a bravura showpiece for the soprano voice.

What is Semiramide?
Written in 1822, Semiramide (the title is pronounced "Seh-mi-rah-mi-day") is Rossini's final opera for the Italian theater. Unlike his comedies, it is a serious drama with an evil queen, a bold young Prince and interference from higher powers, very like in structure (if not necessarily in its music) to the baroque masterpieces of Handel. (It has been referred to elsewhere as the final flowering of the baroque style.)  This opera  is a rarity at the Met, revived only when a soprano comes along who can soar the heights of the demanding title role. This is the Met's first staging of the opera since 1993.

What's the story?
Based on a famous play by Voltaire, this is a story of a succession crisis that bedevils the Kingdom of Babylon, touched off when the title character, Queen Semiramide, murders the rightful King and tries to set her lover Assur up as the next monarch. Eventually the crime at the opera's heart is revealed, evil is punished and virtue rewarded. The whole opera is about three hours, with a very long first act. Plan accordingly.

What's the music like?
Rossini was a master of the bel canto style. Arias are strict and formal, with a slow section (cavatina) followed by a fast cabaletta that offers the singers opportunity for vocal display and virtuosity. The tunes will stay with you as Rossini was one of the most masterful composers of the flowering of Italian opera in the early 19th century. Opera-goers take note: the first act of this extravaganza is an hour-forty, so be sure you go to the bathroom before it starts.

Who's in it?
The bel canto specialist Angela Meade sings the title role for the second time--and her first in a fully staged production. This may be the most difficult of Rossini soprano roles and she is is the reason to see this. She is surrounded by stars. Tenor Javier Camarena, bass Ildar Abdrazakov as (the bad guy) Asur and Elizabeth DeShong in the trouser role of Arsace make this one of the more impressive casts of the season. Maurizio Benini conducts in his reliable, unexciting rum-ti-tum style.

How's the production?
This is an Italian grand opera on the largest possible scale, with a JBabylonian setting similar to Verdi's Nabucco. It appears here in an old-school production, originally by veteran director John Copley and designed by  John Conklin. Mr. Conklin delivered simple representational sets that attempt to give a sense of visual splendor to locales like the Temple of Baal and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

When does the show open?
The first performance of Semiramide is February 19.

Where do I get tickets?
Tickets are available through MetOpera.Org or by calling the box office at (212) 362-6000. You can save service fees by going to the box office in person at the Met itself, located at 30 Lincoln Center Plaza. Hours: Monday to Saturday: 10am-8pm, Sunday: 12pm-6pm.

What recording do you recommend?
There are a few recordings of Semiramide floating around, as the role is attractive to a superstar soprano with a big vocal budget and the chutzpah to carry off the title role. Of these, the ever-reliable Joan Sutherland added another crown to her gallery of famous operatic monarchs. Conducted (as she was in almost all her recordings) by her husband Richard Bonynge, the set also features Marilyn Horne. 

Trending on Superconductor


Share My Blog!

Share |

Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

My photo

Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.