Rossini: La Semiramide (Marilyn Horne/ Samuel Ramey) (Arthaus Dvd: 100222)
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Rossini set to music the text of Gaetano's two-act \melodramma tragico", based on Voltaire's La trag?¿die de S?®miramis (1748) in little more than 30 days. Semiramide was, as he himself said, "the only one of my Italian operas which I was able to write in peace". The Catalan mezzo-soprano Isabella Colbran, whom the composer had married in Naples a year before, sang the title role at the successful premiere in Venice on 3 February 1823, and twenty-eight further performances followed immediately. This production of Semiramide, which director John Copley staged at the New York Metropolitan Opera in December 1990, combined all the ingredients that send opera lovers into raptures: one of the most mature works of opera from the first half of the 19th century, the sense of a near-perfect period setting in ancient Babylon, and a breathtaking cast, that could not be bettered anywhere, with - first and foremost - Marilyn Horne (who first came to fame playing Arsace alongside Joan Sutherland). Brian Large captured the exceptional occasion for this DVD."