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Joel Kasow
Fanfare, November 2014

Alex Penda (formerly Alexandrina Pendatchanska) has become one of today’s major interpreters of a wide repertoire, from Handel to Donizetti. © 2014 Fanfare

David Shengold
Opera News, December 2013

This issue…presents a genuinely useful and enjoyable addition to the Semiramide discography. Not since Naxos’s studio versions of Barbiere…has the company produced a Rossini title so competitive with existing versions.

…Antonino Fogliani’s conducting here is enlivening and well conceived. He never overweights the musical framework, allowing for largely unforced vocalism from the highly gifted cast.

The heart of the performance, as she should be, is the Babylonian queen herself. Alex Penda…is, in temperament and delivery, a real prima donna: her vocalism, while admirably wide-ranging, dramatically pointed and stylistically attuned, is not always ravishing, but it scores its points with panache. Unlike many Semiramides, Penda is credibly a killer as well as a siren. Lorenzo Ragazzo (Assur) and Andrea Mastroni (Oroe) both have fine bass voices that are apt to spread on sustained notes. Overall, this is a worthy and stimulating performance. © 2013 Opera News Read complete review

Patrick Mack
Parterre Box, October 2013

The musical performance here is of the highest order and much of the credit must go to the Virtuosi Brunensis in the pit and their leader Antonino Fogliani. The Sinfonia sets the tone with delicious pizzicato strings, fleet winds, and a strong timpani with a light touch on the triangle. Playing on the whole is extremely seductive throughout the evening and reminds us how much Rossini benefits from a strong but transparent conception. In the critical edition prepared by Philip Gossett and Alberto Zedda, it’s a glorious reading of the opera just from orchestral standpoint alone.

The Camerata Bach Choir…give a very alert and nuanced performance that shows Rossini to be more gifted at choral writing than perhaps I had appreciated before.

Lorenzo Regazzo…tackles the tremendously difficult role of Assur with admirable success. He negotiates the old school bel canto line with ample breath and flexibility.

Marianna Pizzolato in the role of Arsace was a revelation to me. She has a pungent merlot-colored mezzo and keeps everything beautifully on the breath. Her da capo is tastefully decorated until she pulls out the stops for a final high B, winning bravos from the house.

…Penda is especially tangy and vivid in recitative and her redoubtable technique allows her to meet, if not surpass, the vocal requirements of the titular character.

Sonics are absolutely superb and the engineers are to be particularly commended.

…it’s an excellent value and worth owning for the uniformly stylish singing performances. © 2013 Parterre Box Read complete review

Manuel Ribeiro
Pizzicato, September 2013

Since there are not so many valuable recordings of Rossini’s Semiramide, we warmly welcome this high ranking live production from Wildbad Festival. © Pizzicato

Richard Osborne
Gramophone, September 2013

…Semiramide is rarely played complete. Yet when it is, as here in this live concert performance recorded in Wildbad in 2012, the results can be revelatory.

Osborn’s Idreno sits well alongside the other principals in this powerfully cast set. Lorenzo Regazzo’s Assur is also very fine.

The Wildbad performance[’s]…completeness and theatrical cogency make it an indispensable addition to any representative collection of serious Rossini on record. © 2013 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Joseph Newsome
Voix des Arts, July 2013

…the sound quality of this recording is excellent, producer Siegbert Ernest, engineers Norbert Vossen and Siggi Mehne, and editor Dr. Annette Sidhu-Ingenhoff having captured the vibrancy of the hall’s acoustics and successfully minimized the intrusions of stage and audience noises. The choristers of the Camerata Bach Choir, PoznaƄ, sing with blessedly sure intonation and careful blending of timbres…The players of the Virtuosi Brunensis have presented their impressive credentials on several of NAXOS’s bel canto recordings, and they again prove both individually and collectively to be sensitive, idiomatic interpreters of the music of Rossini. The soloists receive from Maestro Fogliani ideal support, and his attention to the niceties of Rossini’s orchestration and often inspired phrasing is engaging. Semiramide is a long opera that benefits greatly from Maestro Fogliani’s propulsive but unhurried pacing.

Singers of secondary rôles in Rossini operas often face first-rate challenges, and poor singing among their ranks can undermine the effectiveness of a performance. In this performance, there are no disappointments. Baritone Raffaele Facciolà is nicely other-worldly in the dramatically critical rôle of the ghost of Nino…Bass Andrea Mastroni also impresses as Oroe…Soprano Marija Jokovic sings beautifully as the princess Azema…tenor Vassilis Kavayas sings boldly as Mitrane, captain of the Royal Guard, his honeyed timbre making his every utterance in the opera enjoyable.

Throughout the performance, Mr. Ragazzo meets every demand of [Rossini’s] music with absolute confidence, rising to the coloratura challenges unhesitatingly, and he creates a character who is ultimately a towering force in the drama rather than merely a nasty stock villain.

Ms. Pizzolato is a fine singer with a number of successful recordings to her credit, but her Arsace in this recording is the sort of performance that sets standards for generations to come.

Ms Penda’s performance leaves no doubt that Semiramide is the opera’s title character by right. The glowing zeal of her singing makes the opera’s dénouement plausibly moving, and her ardor shapes a Semiramide who is a credible tragic heroine.

After hearing this vivacious performance recorded by NAXOS, it seems impossible that any listener could regard Semiramide as anything other than a milestone in the ever-changing evolution of Italian opera. © 2013 Voix des Arts Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2013

Semiramide provides attractive vocal opportunities for accomplished singers, and without such singers it makes no good sense to perform the work’. So wrote Philip Gossett, the joint creator of the definitive critical edition of the opera, throwing down the gauntlet to opera companies. Indeed the opera had fallen somewhat into obscurity until Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne jointly arrived on the scene with a recording made in the 1960’s by Decca. And so they reintroduced us to a genre of opera that the world thought it had outgrown. It had started out in 1822, Rossini writing his last opera for Italy before departing for Paris, and in that score he seemingly tried to consolidate all of his past triumphs. Though dressed in ancient times it was the typical operatic love triangle with some twists and turns along the way, ending, as was fashionable, with the death of the woman at the centre of the triangle. That Rossini wrote the major roles with certain singers in mind is without doubt, the great soprano of the day, Isabella Colbran, being cast as Semiramide. But the work, lasting about three and three quarter hours, proved exhausting in the twenty-eight performances that followed  the premiere in Venice in 1823. Cuts became commonplace, though the composer insisted on its complete performance at the London premiere the following year. On this disc the Philip Gossett/Alberto Zedda edition is used which returns us to Rossini’s original. So do we have a cast that ‘makes it good sense to perform the work’? Well it has a red-blooded Bulgarian soprano, Alex Penda, who portrays a Semiramide that you would not argue with, and she certainly gets around the fast decorations with considerable agility, and hits the high notes in total security, her steely brilliance very different to Sutherland’s lyric approach. Marianna Pizzolato, in the male role of Arasce, warms the lower end of her voice as the evening progresses, and by the close of the extremely long first act she is partnering Penda superbly in the big duet. The American tenor, John Osborn, tackles the extremely taxing part of Idreno with more enthusiasm than beauty of tone, while the ever-present bass at this annual Rossini Festival, Lorenzo Regazzo, is as reliable as ever. Short of a few strings, the Virtuosi Brunensis, is a pleasingly accurate orchestra for the conductor, Antonino Fogliani, and the curiously named Camerata Bach Choir is a very virile chorus. The performance at the 2012 ‘Rossini in Wildbad Festival’ is punctuated by applause, but the Southwest German Radio recording is very good, the release taking precedence over that venerable Decca version which came from a much truncated score. © 2013 David’s Review Corner

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