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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth it for the women, 7 Sep 2008
By 
S. Wells (California) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Rossini: Semiramide (Audio CD)
I still remember how thrilled I was when I first heard this recording nearly 40 years ago. It still stands up very well, although it was in the vanguard of the revival of serious Rossini singing.

Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne were a famous combination both on record and on stage. Here they are presented at the very height of their formidable combined powers. At this point, Dame Joan's voice is fresh and firm, free from the scoops, swoops and mannerisms that later became associated with her singing. Alas, even at the time of this recording, her pronunciation had begun to deteriorate. There's little drama in her portrayal of the Babylonian queen, but one can still revel in the sheer beauty of the voice and the blazing coloratura. Marilyn Horne, however, has plenty of passion and power. Here alone is ample evidence of why this magnificent artist was so instrumental in the revival of Rossini's serious operas. The voice is rich, the technique perfect and the coloratura brilliant. A breathtaking achievement! (I had the pleasure of seeing her Arsace in the theatre, as well as her Calbo in "Maometto II", the title role in "Tancredi" and her comic renditions of Rosina, Isabella and Cenerentola.)

The men on this recording aren't so well represented. True, John Serge does a creditable job of the one aria he's allowed. But Joseph Rouleau (Assur) and Spiro Malas (Oroe) can't even fudge their fioratura.

Richard Bonynge conducts his own, heavily cut, version of the score. As a point of reference, it's about 45 minutes shorter than Ion Marin's recording on DG using the critical edition published by the Rossini foundation. As a first, or only, recording of this opera, I'd recommend that on DG. But, no one who appreciates Rossini or coloratura singing will want to be without this set. The women are worth it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The real thing, 30 Aug 2008
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This review is from: Rossini: Semiramide (Audio CD)
It was the partnership of Sutherland/Horne that put this opera firmly back on the world stage. Recorded in the 60s when both artists were in their vocal prime, it is a demonstation of what the trained human voice is capable of. Then add some! There was a unique chemistry between these two, one that lasted throughout the career of Dame Joan, who retired in 1990, with Horne at her retirement bash at Covent Garden, singing their final duet together from Semiramide. Frankly, it is impossible to find adequate words to praise their artistry on this set: it is beyond praise and it set a standard that no-one has subsequently come near approaching.

But what of the opera? It is opera seria with a a hugely rumbustious series of ravishing solos, duets, choruses and ensembles. It is tuneful, fast paced and dramatically compelling (even if the plot is absurd - but who cares about that? It is early romantic stuff, not 'verismo' Puccini). What does matter is the musical inspiration, and this is consistently high and wonderfully entertaining. Here the whole thing is conducted delectably by Richard Bonynge who has an ideal grasp of the ebb and flow of the bel canto style. Indeed, the whole production comes out of Decca's top drawer, at a time when they threw money at such enterprises. True, they had the reigning singer of the age in Sutherland (bar none) but this set is a complete triumph in every respect.

I really do urge you to buy and luxuriate! You won't hear singing as staggering as this today, that's for sure.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rossini in full flight, 23 April 2011
By 
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Rossini: Semiramide (Audio CD)
Anyone who automatically thinks of Rossini primarily as a composer of opere buffe needs to reacquaint himself with "Semiramide", one of the most successful of his opere serie, composed six years before his final operatic masterpiece, "Guillaume Tell" and which did much to sustain his reputation as serious musician.

The plot is pure hokum but sufficient to set up situational conflicts which find their emotional expression in fine ensembles and pyrotechnic-stratospheric coloratura arias of the kind thought virtually unsingable in the twentieth century until Sutherland and Horne came along not only to sing them but embellish them spectacularly.

One listens to this recording for them and to hear Bonynge in one of his most successful recordings, directing an excellent LSO and the highly professional and responsive Ambrosian Opera Chorus. The rest of the cast is at best negligible: we have a trio of competent, rich-toned basses singing heftily in the modern manner but without much facility in the required idiom and a rather constricted but musical tenor in John Serge, whose role is small. What we really want to hear is two great powerhouse singers recreating the kid of excitement generated by the creators of their roles, Rossini's wife Isabella Colbran and Rosa Mariani.

Already 45 years old, this recording stands up very well, despite being somewhat cut. The sound is excellent, as was the norm from Decca in the 60's, and the vocal highlights simply breathtaking. Sutherland's diction was already a bit mushy, even at this comparatively early stage but the voice is in glorious estate, utterly thrilling in its power and flexibility. Likewise, Marilyn Horne is in finest voice, perfect for the trouser role of Arsace; to hear them both at their best sample the famous duet "Serbami ognor" - testament to a deservedly legendary vocal partnership. The whole opera is simply a stream of melodic inventiveness, representing both the composer and the two singers at their best.

This belongs in the collection of every voice-fancier.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars wonderfull singing, 17 July 2010
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This review is from: Rossini: Semiramide (Audio CD)
Wonderful singing individually and together from Sutherland and Horne!As ever Sutherland's slow singing is mushy in diction and pitch terms but come the fireworks she is in her element.Horne is suitably masculine with considerably better diction and the men fill in the gaps.Overall great singing on the distaff side..the opera is long tho'...so only 4 stars as I do find listening to the whole means great swathes of less than riveting listening.
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Rossini: Semiramide
Rossini: Semiramide by Joan Sutherland (Audio CD - 2006)
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