Noth­ing tragic about this Baby­lo­nian epic

Rossini’s fi­nal Ital­ian opera might be al­most four hours long, but Erica Jeal is in it for the long haul and crowns it a tri­umph

BBC Music Magazine - - Recording Of The Month Reviews -

Al­bina Shag­imu­ra­tova, Daniela Bar­cel­lona, Mirco Palazzi, Barry Banks, Gian­luca Bu­ratto, Su­sana Gas­par, David Butt Philip,

James Platt (voices); Opera Rara Cho­rus; Or­ches­tra of the Age of En­light­en­ment/sir Mark Elder Opera Rara ORC57 231.03 mins (4 discs)

Semi­ramide, pre­miered in Venice in 1823, is land­mark Rossini in at least two ways: it’s the last Ital­ian-style opera the com­poser wrote, and it’s also the long­est. A com­plete per­for­mance clocks in at around four hours – and that is what Opera Rara of­fers in this im­mac­u­late stu­dio record­ing, made in the weeks be­fore its 2016 BBC Prom fea­tur­ing the same forces.

Yes, it’s long – but, the ques­tion is, what ex­actly would you cut in this per­for­mance?

Sir Mark Elder’s pacy, dra­mat­i­cally-taut con­duct­ing makes it al­most im­pos­si­ble to say. Ob­vi­ously not ‘Bel rag­gio lus­inghier’, the ti­tle role’s big, cho­rus-ac­com­pa­nied aria, which along with the over­ture was the only item that kept the name of the opera fa­mil­iar for nearly a cen­tury un­til a pi­o­neer­ing 1962 re­vival at La Scala star­ring Joan Suther­land. Al­bina Shag­imu­ra­tova sings it beau­ti­fully, and with more per­son­al­ity than most so­pra­nos man­age to in­ject into mu­sic that is this or­nate. And you cer­tainly wouldn’t want to lose a mo­ment of her en­su­ing duet with

Daniela Bar­cel­lona’s Ar­sace, their par­al­lel lines sup­ple and nu­anced, both char­ac­ters bask­ing in the an­tic­i­pa­tion of as­sumed fu­ture hap­pi­ness even if they are at cross pur­poses as to how that joy should be found.

Semi­ramide has more than its share of grand­ness, and in the trum­pet-crowned pro­ces­sion as

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