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Simon Thompson
MusicWeb International, July 2013

The greatest star of the recording is Alberto Zedda himself, the most experienced Rossini conductor around at the minute. He opts for the completely complete version of the opera but the tempo never flags, nor does the sense of dramatic impetus. Instead, the piece seems to become imbued with an almost Wagnerian sense of epic sweep that I found very compelling. That is thanks to the conductor’s ear for architecture and skill in pacing. Even the—often omitted—scenes for Idreno and Azema take their place in an overall dramatic conception that I found very convincing.

The set is led by a truly fantastic Semiramide from Myrtò Papatanasiu, not a soprano I had ever come across before that evening in the theatre, but one I have certainly been looking out for since. Her command of the role is exceptional, showing compelling technique, arresting stage presence and glowingly beautiful voice. Listening to the way she cuts through the crowd in the first scene’s ensemble should be enough to silence anyone who claims that we don’t have the singers for this repertoire any more. She rises with great and justified assurance to the challenge of the big moments, nowhere more impressively than in Bel raggio lusinghier which is sung with total confidence and utter vocal security. OK, she may not have the opulence of, say, Joan Sutherland, but she shows that there is another way of doing it which is equally valid, and her ornamentations are sensitive, intelligent and imposing. Her injunction to the assembled crowd to obey her choice of successor is extremely impressive. She unquestionably has the proper equipment for the role and deserves to be heard.

Every bit as good is the exceptional Arsace of Ann Hallenberg. Perhaps even more than Papatanasiu, she has the full measure of the bel canto style and technique required to succeed in this sort of repertoire. Her entrance aria is full of the right balance of pathos and ardour. The ensuing cabaletta shows rock-solid coloratura technique that puts her comfortably in the company of some of the very best interpreters of the role. Due to the quality of these protagonists, the duets between Semiramide and Arsace are among the highlights of the set, especially their first one where the two voices both set out their stall, so to speak, before slotting together and fitting like two pieces tailor-made for one another. Fantastic. Julianne Geerhart has a brighter, purer, more innocent-sounding soprano than the other ladies in the cast. This sets her character apart very successfully, even though she has very little to do.

The recording is very flattering to the sound. Everything is clear and distinct, and the balance between the singers and the orchestra is very well judged indeed.

This Dynamic release will do very nicely, thank-you. It’s a dramatic, incisive and exciting take on a wonderful opera, and it deserves to be heard. © MusicWeb International Read complete review

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