Rossini - Semiramide
London Symphony Orchestra / Richard Bonynge
Decca 475 7918DM3 Buy now
(168' · ADD · S/T/t)
Dame Joan Sutherland sop Semiramide; Marilyn Horne mez Arsace; Joseph Rouleau bass Assur; John Serge ten Idreno; Patricia Clark sop Azema; Spiro Malas bass Oroe; Michael Langdon bass Ghost of Nino; Leslie Fryson ten Mitrane; Ambrosian Opera Chorus
Wagner thought it represented all that was bad about Italian opera, and Kobbé’s Complete Opera Book proclaimed that it had had its day – but then added that ‘were a soprano and contralto to appear in conjunction in the firmament the opera might be successfully revived’. That was exactly what happened in the 1960s, when both Sutherland and Horne were in superlative voice and, with Richard Bonynge, were prominent in the reintroduction of so many 19th-century operas that the world thought it had outgrown. This recording brought a good deal of enlightenment in its time. For one thing, here was vocal music of such ‘impossible’ difficulty being sung with brilliance by the two principal women and with considerable skill by the men. Then it brought to many listeners the discovery that, so far from being a mere showpiece, the opera contained ensembles of quite compelling dramatic intensity. People who had heard of the duet ‘Giorno d’orrore’ were surprised to find it remarkably unshowy and even expressive of the ambiguous feelings of mother and son in their extraordinary predicament. It will probably be a long time before this recording is superseded.