Opera Scotland

Semiramide 2011Vlaamse Opera, Antwerp & Ghent

Read more about the opera Semiramide

In the previous decade or so, the Edinburgh International Festival presented an interesting stream of four rare Rossini works, all receiving Scottish premieres.  It was a pity that they were all given only in concert form, but the performances were revelatory, and three of them were recorded by Opera Rara.  In 2011,  after a gap of several years,  a fully staged production was at last mounted, this time of Rossini's final Italian opera, the epic Semiramide.

It was good to see this work back on stage in Scotland after a very long gap - in the decade after Rossini's death it was probably performed more often even than the Barber of Seville, but since then, silence.  It needs a quartet of brilliant virtuoso singers, and the Flemish company managed to provide just that.  The second performance really took off with the sequence from Semiramide's famous aria 'Bel raggio lusinghier' through her duet with Arsace 'Serbami ognor' and the beautifully structured first act finale.  The two hours seemed to fly past.

If anything, the second act was even better, with excellent contributions from Assur and Idreno, as well as another splendid duet for the lead pair, followed by a great trio.  The chorus was excellent, and the orchestra, while perhaps not of the virtuoso standard set by the SCO in those Rossini concerts, still produced some lovely sounds.

Alberto Zedda is known here more as a musicologist than conductor - he played a leading role in the Rossini revival by producing cleaned up and authentic versions of many of the scores.  His shiny new edition of Cenerentola, with Teresa Berganza conducted by Claudio Abbado, was a highlight of the 1971 Festival, with an enjoyable recording made at the time.  Zedda conducted a memorable revival of the Barber at Covent Garden in 1975, and for many years worked on revivals at the Rossini Festival at Pesaro.   He probably knew the scores more thoroughly than anyone, and with this Semiramide did a sterling job, allowing the musicians the time to produce delightful phrasing while driving the drama along when needed.

 Any drawbacks?  Nigel Lowery worked as a designer with Scottish Opera some twenty years ago, producing wonderfully effective stagings of Macbeth, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre under the direction of Richard Jones.   He was by now directing his own shows, but here there seemed little of that level of inspiration on display.   The vaguely 1930s Hollywood setting with middle-eastern overtones - Casablanca perhaps? - was visually unimpressive and included what seemed like flickering flash-photography, when something more awe-inspiring was required.

Nevertheless, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening,  proving, if proof were needed, that this is one of the great works of the bel canto era.


Rare Rossini Operas at the Edinburgh Festival

Several Rossini works have appeared in Edinburgh when they were little known anywhere.  The first of these imported stagings was Il signor Bruschino (from Florence 1969), then  Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra, brought from Palermo in 1972.  After a near thirty-year gap Festival Director Brian McMaster in 2001 began a series of four concert performances with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and top-rank performers. The series began with Armida, sponsored by the Peter Moores Foundation.  That sponsorship continued with live recordings made by Opera Rara - Zelmira (2003),  Adelaide di Borgogna(2005), and La Donna del Lago (2006).  After a gap, in 2011 a staging of Semiramide appeared.

Performance Cast

Semiramide Queen of Babylon

Myrtò Papatanasiu

Arsace Commander of the Assyrian Army

Hadar Halévy

Assur an Assyrian Prince

Josef Wagner

Idreno an Indian King

Robert McPherson

Oroe High Priest of the Magi

Igor Bakan

Azema an Assyrian Princess

Julianne Gearhart

Mitrane Captain of the Royal Guards

Eduardo Santamaría

Ghost of Ninus

Charles Dekeyser


Christopher Munro

Performance DatesSemiramide 2011

Map List

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

25 Aug, 18.00 27 Aug, 18.00

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