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Meyerbeer is probably best remembered for his contributions to French grand opera in Les Huguenots, Le prophete and L'Africaine. Semiramide is an early work dealing with legends of the earlier part of the life of Semiramis, Queen of Babylon. The plot is o
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Since writing this review another recording of this opera on Dynamic has appeared. The Dynamic performance is much better sung & seems a more complete version than this Naxos edition. I own both, but if you only want one, the Dynamic is the one to own.
The two great strengths of this recording are the hugely skilled conducting of Richard Bonynge (this is the sort of music that he can really bring to life -- and interestingly here without stellar performers) and the enthusiasm with which the principals, chorus and orchestra enter into the proceedings. That none of these are really top drawer is easily forgotten as the whole performance hangs together to provide very pleasant listening. While as another reviewer noted, the forces are not of the quality that Opera Rara usually brings to similarly obscure works, there is less of a feeling of rescuing an overly neglected work and more one of putting on a performance because the music is indeed worthwhile on its own merits. Finally, the price cannot be beat while the recording quality is good.
Many ranted that he rode La Stupenda's train, but we are some distance away now and perhaps we've come to realize that it could also have been the other way round. I'm certain both he and his wife would have had brilliant careers with or without the other, but they never had to test that; Thank God. Mr. Bonynge's work here (without Dame Joan) is a marvelous example of his brilliance as conductor and dramaturge.
I have two versions of this opera, the Naxos, and the Dynamic versions. The Dynamic "full-score" Semiramide is good, worth hearing once or twice and is probably perfect for musicologists. The Dynamic version, however, (an example of all notes writ) should sit on a library shelf somewhere as a reference. Though well done, it becomes tiresome at the end.
This version, the Naxos, is never tiresome. Bonynge captures the era. He cuts tastefully, where necessary; he's given wonderful talent here (particularly, Olga Peretyatko as Tamiri) and creates a marvelous work for the theatre. One is charmed and delighted by his masterful choices throughout. Bonynge's sense of the early 19th century, his genius for conveying its drama, heart and theatrical cohesiveness is ever-present. You can't help but feel you are there, Turin, 1819. I listen to this often. It's transporting. Bravo,Bonynge!
This Semiramide comes with only a synopsis and a bit of history - no libretto. But, it is one of the best bargains the market has to offer; It's very affordable. The Dynamic version does come with libretto.
One more thing: Both are live performances, but the Dynamic will make you wince at times from the crashing, booming set changes that are heard full-out on-mic.