You younger ones are going to have to forgive us older people, because, you see, we were alive when gods still walked the earth.
Filmed in 1980 in Aix en Provence this film of Rossini’s Semiramide from the Bel Canto Society is blurry. The film is in color, but the production is in black and white. The costumes are ridiculous, with absurd white fright wigs on everyone. The sound has been recorded by one of those automatic gain devices that tries to keep the volume at a constant level, so when the sound gets soft there is a loud hum.
So why would you want this? The annoying gimmicks of Rossini’s operae buffae are not here. There is nothing but glorious bel canto music. The operas of Bellini descend from opera seria, and Semiramide is one of its finest examples. It is a typical opera plot with love, power, revenge, and death all mixed in.
But that’s still not why you would want it. Marilyn, wherever you are, I simply forgot. It is a privilege to hear this.
Semiramide is Montserrat Caballe.
Arsace is Marilyn Horne.
Assur is Samuel Ramey.
Idreno is Francisco Araiza.
Is it necessary to say more? Marilyn Horne is at her peak, and what an astounding peak it is. She is vigorous and self-confident. Montserrat is marvelously intense here, with everything gorgeously sung. Their duets are heavenly.
And the men are up to them. This is some of the best Samuel Ramey you will ever hear. Araiza's part is less significant, but he is also fabulous. A more balanced cast is simply not possible.
It's nice to see such a great audience, who can hardly be made to stop cheering and stomping. And why not? Cheer and stomp in your living room.