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Subject: Semiramide
From: Stephen Charitan <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Stephen Charitan <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 5 Mar 2018 19:14:18 -0500

text/plain (85 lines)

Semiramide is not only an Aladdin's cave chock full of Rossinian treasures,
it is musical architecture of the noblest order.  This monumental work can
only be revived when - at a minimum - at least 3/4's of its vocal
requirements can be met. The original cast of this production from the
early 90s did a little better with Horne and Ramey tipping the scales with
help from Cuberli / Anderson and more than respectable support from Merritt
/ Olsen.

In terms of the leading lady of this current revival, I need to eat my
share of crow.  Based on previous "in house" experiences with Angela Meade
I fully anticipated a vibrato ridden, oversized vacuum occupying center
stage.  Much to my delight, the lady proved me wrong on all counts.

The vibrato is a natural component of her voice, much like Pilar Lorengar,
or more recently, Joseph Calleja - both singers I enjoy and admire.  For
the two performances I witnessed live (Feb 24 and March 3) she had it under
admirable control - and the voice rang out with authority and clarity
throughout the house.  For me, her performance crested in the declamatory
passage that begins the enormous Act 1 finale - "I vostri voti omai." (I
think Bellini was listening when he composed Norma's "Sedizione Voci") .  She
defined how a large, plush, agile voice could bring drama and veracity to
Bel Canto pyrotechnics.  There is no denying she is a Big Girl, but the MET
costume department pulled out all the stops to show her to best advantage.  She
must have looked in the mirror and gained full confidence in herself and
her right to assume this iconic role.

Elizabeth de Shong was a marvelous Arsace short of two virtues - volume and
testosterone.  She had agility to burn and wonderfully plummy low notes but
compared to those she had to "duet" with she often got lost in the mix.  Her
best came in Arsace's entrance aria - "Ah quel giorno..."  Horne still has
no equal or successor in this part.

In terms of Ildar Abdrazokov's "Assur" you had to have been there.  He
looked smashing in his costumes and had a considerable amount of "finger
pointing" swagger in his bearing.  Alas, agility and low notes (equally
essential to this role) were not in his armory.  Like Horne's Arsace, in
this role, Ramey reigns.

On Feb 24, Camerena cancelled and we had Robert McPherson.  Idreno is a
curious role, much like Don Ottavio in "Don Giovanni."  If a singer can
manage it, the part is essential - if not, its best cut.  Mr. McPherson was
put on "cold" and stumbled through both of Idreno's arias with a light,
semi agile tenorino.  The experience was painful rather than
pleasurable.  Camerena
was back on March 3rd and the voice is a glory to hear in the MET's vast
space.  If truth be told his Rossinian agility takes 3rd place behind
Florez and Brownlee, but barring those two, it was thrilling on its own
terms.  The audience - justifiably - loved him.

Maurizio Benini cancelled both performances without explanation, and an
efficient Gareth Morell took over.  I had to laugh at what the MET usher
told me when I saw the "change" announcement sticking out of the program -
"Don't worry, its only the conductor..."  So much for Rossini's Overture,
not to mention the brilliance of his orchestrations throughout!

If this cast is firing on all cylinders for Saturday's HD don't miss a rare
opportunity to hear what some of us consider to be Rossini's masterpiece.

If interested, I've posted some curtain call pictures on Opera L facebook...

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