Semiramide (Semiramis)
  • Gioachino Rossini. Melodramma tragico in two acts. 1822.
  • Libretto by Gaetano Rossi, after Voltaire’s Sémiramis.
  • First performance at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, on 3rd February 1823.
CHARACTERS

Idreno, an Indian king

tenor

Oroe, high priest of the Magi

bass

Assur, a prince, descendant of Baal

bass

Semiramide, Queen of Babylon, widow of King Nino

soprano

Arsace, Commander of the Assyrian army

contralto

Azema, a princess, descendant of Baal

soprano

Mitrane, Captain of the Guard

tenor

Semiramide, with Assur, has secured the murder of her husband, King Nino. Her son, however, has escaped death and is now, as Arsace, a successful commander, his identity unknown to his mother. He is called back to Babylon, is in love with Azema and unwilling to support Assur in the latter’s bid for the throne. Semiramide falls in love with him and declares him king and her consort, while Azema will marry Idreno. King Nino’s ghost warns of crimes to be expiated and the high priest Oroe tells Arsace of the crime committed by his mother and Assur. Arsace, in the tomb of his father, meets King Nino’s murderers and, seeking to strike Assur, kills Semiramis. He is finally declared King.

Semiramide was Rossini’s last opera for Italy, the title role written for his wife, Isabella Colbran. The work starts with an effective overture and in the first act includes Arsace’s return, with Ah! quel giorno ognor rammento (Ah! I always remember that day), and the impressive aria Bel raggio lusinghier (Fair ray of hope). The opera calls for outstanding singers in the leading soprano and contralto roles.