Rossini: Semiramide - concert performance
11 & 14 March 1998, Vienna, Konzerthaus
Edita Gruberova (Semiramide)
Bernadette Manca di Nissa (Arsace)
Juan Diego Florez (Idreno)
Ildebrando D'Arcangelo (Assur)
Julian Konstantinov (Oroe),
Jose Guadalupe Reyes (Mitrane)
Helene Le Corre (Azema),
Andreas Jankowitsch (Ghost of Nino)
Radio Symphonieorchester Wien, Wiener Konzertchor,
Marcello Panni (cond.)
As the opera was performed almost without cuts, the net duration of the
music was about 4 hours, which was a little bit too long, but I enjoyed it.
I saw both performances. Especially during the first performance
I was not entirely happy with the conductor. His tempi were quite slow,
and, for my tastes, the music was a bit heavy. I always think of
Rossini's music as a kind of lace, delicately and very professionally
manufactured - in this case the lace had a bit too much weight.
There were a few orchestral imperfections, too - but such are
almost inevitable in a 4-hour performance.
With the exception of 2 singers in smaller roles, the soloists were
all capable of singing in the florid Rossinian style. The two exceptions
were the Azema who didn't impress me at all, and the Oroe, a Bulgarian
singer, who had a fine bass voice, but every time he opened his mouth
I thought I was hearing a Russian opera. There was nothing "Italianate"
in that voice.
The Assur's voice was a size too small for this role. Otherwise
he was fine, had a nice timbre and handled the coloraturas well.
His Mad Scene at the end was especially memorable.
When the Arsace started to sing, I was delighted. I heard an
ideal Arsace voice. The singer was actually a middle-aged
lady but when I closed my eyes I could easily picture a
20-year-old youth (which had not been the case with other
singers I had heard on recordings). The low notes were
particularly impressive. Unfortunately it soon became clear
that she was not as endowed vocally in her upper range
as the role would have required. So she was a
gorgeous Arsace with some unfortunate deficiencies.
She sang fine, moving duets with Gruberova, the two voices
matched well and they were really "together".
Young Florez (as Idreno) is a real find. Not a big voice but
it projects well, he does the coloraturas with astonishing
security and attacks the high notes fearlessly (I think we heard
at least one high D, held out long). And the voice has a certain
magical quality which as yet I cannot define more closely.
Gruberova? "As usual." Even in this relatively good cast
she stood out. No wonder she is nicknamed "L'Unica".
Her deeply psychological approach of the portrayed character
is matchless, as are her superb technique and vocal beauty
(at least in my - and a lot of other Listers' - ears). I have often written
about her and I can only repeat that she uses the coloraturas
not as mere ornamentation but as expressive devices.
I think that in "Bel raggio lusinghier" Panni and Gruberova battled over
the tempi and Gruberova won. In fact, if I remember correctly,
she sped up the cabaletta a bit too much.
Her last aria (can it be called a Preghiera?) I'll count as one of my
most treasured Gruberova moments. For me, it was just more than perfect,
if such a thing exists. The trills, her voice sliding up and down...
But it was of course not just technique but matchless expressivity.
The warmth of her voice was astonishing, the throbbing pain in it,
the depth of the emotion...
When she as the dying Semiramide cried out "Oh, Dio!", I half expected
her to sink lifelessly to the ground, as she so often does on stage.
She indeed made a downward motion, but, of course, as this
was a concert performance, she just sat on a chair and sat there
motionless, looking a bit "otherworldly".
Gruberova was in even greater form at the second performance.
Unfortunately Manca di Nissa was in poorer shape. Her voice didn't sound
so fine as it had on the previous occasion. It was quite colorless now.
Nevertheless, she managed to sing the role acceptably.
I was more satisfied with the conductor this time. The tempi
remained slow but the whole sound became more integrated.
I didn't hear any tempo problems in "Bel raggio lusinghier" or elsewhere.
Again the high point for me was Gruberova's last aria. It was
sung so softly, with such exquisite care. Everyone held his/her breath
Online reviews in German can be found at
The first concert was broadcast on radio, and a CD will be made from the
I have also heard that a Puccini aria CD will soon come out on
Nightingale Classics. It will have Gruberova, Gwyneth Jones, Eva Marton
and Gabriela Benackova singing Puccini arias. Gruberova sings
"Signore ascolta" from TURANDOT, "O mio babbino caro" from
GIANNI SCHICCI, and "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta" from LA RONDINE.
I have never heard Gruberova sing Puccini (I believe Akira and perhaps some
Listers did hear "O mio babbino caro"), and I am curious.
I also learned that Gruberova will have two concerts here in Budapest
this year: a concert Fledermaus on 19-July, and a duet concert on 5-Oct with
Japanese counter-tenor Mera Yoshikazu. I think that the only Lister who
has heard this counter-tenor so far is Akira. Anybody else? I wonder what the
programme will be. I guess there will be some Haendel and/or other baroque,
and possibly some belcanto. Do you have any ideas for duets suitable for a
virtuoso high soprano with a large vocal range, and a counter-tenor?
The Fledermaus concert will have an impressive cast:
Adriane Pieczonka (Rosalinde), Edita Gruberova (Adele),
Carmen Oprisanu (Orlofsky), Joerg Schneider (Alfred), Istvan Gati (Falke),
Thomas Moser (Eisenstein), Gottfried Hornik (Frank).
I'm glad that twice this year I won't have to travel hundreds of kilometres to
Kati (Katalin Szabo)
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