Royal Opera House, London Until Dec 16
This Semiramide is a triumph for Joyce DiDonato, a singer of power and refinement, now in her full maturity.
She fills the house with a flow of glorious tone which, when married as it is to a complete understanding of her role, the murderous Queen Semiramide, is totally irresistible.
She is especially well supported here by Daniela Barcellona in the ‘trouser role’ of Arsace, Semiramide’s intended lover, who turns out to be her son!
Joyce DiDonato in the title role. DiDonato is a singer of power and refinement, now in her full maturity
Barcellona and DiDonato work seamlessly together, benefiting from being in this production’s first run in Munich in February.
With Semiramide’s former lover, Assur, we got two for the price of one on opening night. Michele Pertusi withdrew due to illness at half time.
Happily, his replacement, Mirco Palazzi, made a fine impression, singing with great spirit and conviction.
Bálint Szabó is a sonorous Oroe, and the American tenor Lawrence Brownlee a charismatic Idreno.
Lawrence Brownlee as Idreno. This opera seria was the last of Rossini’s 30 Italian operas and premiered in Venice in 1823
With the conductor Antonio Pappano at, or near, his best, and his orchestra playing out of their skins, this is musically about as good as it gets.
David Alden’s production is generally sensible, and Paul Steinberg’s sets are appropriately imposing. Alden is well capable of excess himself.
But here he behaves himself, in a generally painless updating from ancient Babylon to today’s Middle East, shorn of spurious political and social references.
Only in his depiction of the supposed sex siren Princess Azema (Jacquelyn Stucker), portrayed here as autistic, does he lose it somewhat.
DiDonato and Daniela Barcellona as Arsace. With the conductor Antonio Pappano at, or near, his best, and his orchestra playing out of their skins, this is musically about as good as it gets
Steinberg’s sets convey the cult-of-the-personality palace of an Arabian despot. It looks good, and is appropriate to the drama.
This opera seria was the last of Rossini’s 30 Italian operas and premiered in Venice in 1823. It contains much magnificent music.
What a shame it isn’t in the cinemas. Why does the Royal Opera put only its duds on the big screen?
SHOW OF THE WEEK
Classical Spectacular Royal Albert Hall
Do you like a good classical tune on Classic FM or wherever, but feel a bit shy about going to a full-blown concert? Well, have I got a show for you.
Classical Spectacular packs them in at the Albert Hall a dozen times a year, because it’s just so exhilaratingly good for people who want to wallow in a great melody.
And also have some fun with lasers, fireworks, and as massive a cannon bang at the end of the 1812 Overture as I’ve ever heard indoors.
The Royal Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic Choir, a military band, classical dancers and two opera singers.
Yes, you get plenty of bangs for your buck at Classical Spectacular, and I’m not just talking about the cannons.
The conductor, John Rigby, does well, and addressed his audience last weekend in a refreshingly down-to-earth, unstuffy Scouse accent.
Why not give it a go? Whether you are nine or 90, you’ll have a great time.
Classical Spectacular returns to the Royal Albert Hall, March 15-18, raymondgubbay.co.uk