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Subject: Münchner Opernfestspiele: Semiramide
From: Bonnie Bonis <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Bonnie Bonis <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 27 Jul 2017 04:34:18 -0400
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Semiramide, Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich, 24 July 2017

Semiramide ……………………….…………………………… Joyce DiDonato 
Assur ……………………….…………………………………….. Alex Esposito 
Arsace ……………………….……….………………………….. Daniela Barcellona 
Idreno ……………………….………………………….……….. Lawrence Brownlee 
Azema ……………………….…………………………….…….. Nikola Hillebrand
Oroe ………………………….…………………………….…….. Simone Alberghini 
Mitrane ……………………….……………………….….…….. Galeano Salas 
L'ombra di Nino ……………………………………….…….. Igor Tsarkov

cond. ……………………….…………....…………………...… Michele Mariotti
dir. ……………………….…………………………….………….. David Alden 

Bayerisches Staatsorchester


Semiramide is often referred to as a rarity, however this was the second 
production of the opera I have seen in the space of less than a year (the 
earlier one being Luca Ronconi’s production staged in Florence in the au
autumn of last year), and I am contemplating seeing yet another one at th
the Met next winter. That makes it about as rare as Trovatore. I know the mu
music of this opera well and like it a lot, but the three and a half hours of Ro
Rossini can become soporific; that was my experience in Florence (albeit in th
the evening after work). Not so in Munich.

The first-act confrontation between Arsace and Assur made me sit up and ta
take notice. This was going to be a very dramatic performance. I was th
thrilled with the singing of Alex Esposito. He has a gorgeous deep, rumbling ba
bass, full of nuances which he put to villainous effect. He was very agile an
and active on stage, giving vent to his rages and arrogance with brusque, na
natural outbursts. Daniela Barcellona was her usual masculine self, and be
between the two of them the scene was fraught with tension.

Joyce DiDonato was in glorious voice, at her belcanto best. Her singing was 
highly embellished, but always expressive. The duet between Semiramide 
and Arsace in Act I was exquisite.

The Bayerisches Staatsorchester sounded superb under Michele Mariotti’s 
conducting. David Alden’s production let the drama unfold in an 
indeterminate setting, certainly not ancient Babylon, but with nothing so 
incoherent as to detract from the telling of the story. The costumes were a 
mixture of modern Western clothing and exotic-looking Middle Eastern type 
garments. Idreno was dressed all in regal white with a turban. Azema was 
garbed in a most bizarre manner: swathed mummy-like in gold with even 
her head covered by a gold skullcap and her arms encased in long golden 
sheaths extending all the way to the floor and vaguely resembling wings. 
At the moment when she was supposed to marry Idreno, the sleeves and th
the golden wrap were removed from her and replaced by a white robe; ho
however, for the curtain calls she appeared again in her golden get-up.

The simple sets consisted mainly of sliding panels decorated with 
arabesques; the floor too was decorated with arabesques. For much of the 
opera, two huge photographic portraits hung on the walls, one showing 
just the married couple Semiramide and Nino, the other showing them with 
their little boy. Nino in these pictures was dressed in a blue Western-style 
suit with red tie and sunglasses. When the ghost appeared at the end of 
the first act, he emerged from beneath the arabesqued floor and looked ju
just like in the portraits. Later, in the second act, when Assur alone sees th
the apparition, videos of the same man were projected on the backdrop.

At the very end of the performance I had one slight quibble: Semiramide, 
after being fatally wounded by Arsace, who slit her throat with a scimitar, re
remained standing and even staggered around the stage for some time, wi
with no one attending to her, before finally collapsing more or less as the op
opera drew to a close. It annoys me when characters who are supposed to be
be dead continue lifelike on stage, and here especially I thought it di
diminished the dramatic effect of the conclusion.

I’d never thought about it before, but is it to be assumed that Azema 
actually marries Idreno in the end? She does give her consent in obedience 
to Semiramide’s will, but after the tragic events in the tomb and Arsace
Arsace/Ninia being proclaimed king, is there still hope that the two of them can
can be united?

--
Bonnie Bonis
Florence, Italy

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