Bel canto can be translated as "pretty singing", and that definition seems tailor-made for this production, which offers grace, charm, and a fine-tuned sense of style in abundance to compensate for its limited psychological and emotional impact. The four principal singers are all specialists in the bel canto style and this opera has played a key role in building their substantial reputations. For its sweeping musical imagination and technical wizardry, Rossini's epic about royal assassination and misdirected lust in the ancient Babylonian Empire deserves a place in... any inclusive opera collection, and we are not likely to have a better video recording of Semiramide in the foreseeable future. June Anderson has an attractive appearance and sounds exactly right in the music's florid melodic lines. But she is not dramatically compelling as the wicked queen who had her husband killed and fell in love with a man who turned out to be her long-lost son, Arsace. Marilyn Horne rose to the highest levels of international fame in the role of that conflicted son, and her presence alone would be enough to give this video classic status. Her voice was a bit past its prime when this performance was recorded in 1991, but still there is no other voice quite like it, no other voice so suited to Rossini's heroic mezzo roles. Samuel Ramey is a close bass counterpart to Anderson: great tone, agile florid singing, and a rather wooden but visually appealing stage presence. Sanford Olsen has a small role and sings it near perfectly. James Conlon gets excellent musical results; John Copley's staging is massive and static. --Joe McLellan, Amazon.com [show more]
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