“Semiramide”: Glorious Grand Opera

Of a new production at Covent Garden, starring Jacquelyn Stucker and Lawrence Brownlee, Rupert Christiansen writes: ‘This is a thrilling occasion: grand opera, grandly sung, played and staged. And I speak as someone who always approaches Rossini’s serious works with trepidation. Like Mosé in Egitto or Maometto Secondo, Semiramide is over-extended and marred by a few passages of rum-ti-tum banality and mere showiness. The genius of David Alden’s production is that it exploits these lapses as an element of black comedy, applied to an apparently earnest classical tale of a murderous queen at war with an old lover and blinded

by a passion for a young soldier of whose identity as her son she is unaware. Without overplaying his hand or resorting to caricature, Alden punctures any pretension to tragic pomp and plays out the plot as a naked power struggle, in which the corrupt get their comeuppance and the innocent suffer too.

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