Cher Public

Horne in the morning and June at night

Eleven days from now Semiramide returns to the Met (not without controversy) for the first time in 25 years. To mark that revival as well as the 250th anniversary of Rossini’s death, “Trove Thursday” presents the most complete performance of the opera to take place since the 1820s: an all-American star-studded gala produced at Carnegie Hall by Matthew Epstein in 1983 with June Anderson, Marilyn Horne, Samuel Ramey and Douglas Ahlstedt with Henry Lewis conducting. 

Semiramide was the second of Rossini series that Epstein curated that season; the first, La Donna del Lago with Frederica von Stade, Horne, Rockwell Blake and Dano Raffanti, was offered on “Trove Thursday” several years ago.

Anyone who might have already heard this Semiramide should take another listen as this recording presents it in the finest sound quality I’ve heard. It helpfully begins with the announcement (surely a surprise to very few) that Montserrat Caballé would not be appearing that evening in the title role.

I was told was that everyone else had been rehearsing for at least a week for the performance on a Monday evening but Caballê didn’t show up until the Friday before and then promptly pulled out the next day. Lewis was also a substitute, having taken over for Jesús López-Cobos, who had withdrawn about a week earlier.

Although Anderson was more than six years away from her Met debut, she had had major successes at New York City Opera and elsewhere and her days of covering were behind her. But she had just sung Semiramide in Rome opposite Lucia Valentini-Terrani and knew—given Caballés track record—there was probably a better than good chance she’d be showing off her Babylonian queen to Carnegie audiences.

It proved to be a grand local success in a role she would assume nearly eight years later (again with Horne and Ramey) at the Met and which would be televised and released on home video in the production about to be revived.

If like me you “learned” the opera on the great if truncated London recording Horne made with Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge, you were used to the male performers sounding like distant also-rans compared to those two great ladies. But Ramey (this performance was a year before his Met debut in Rinaldo) and a new generation of Rossini tenors changed all that.

Among the important features of this performance which runs nearly four hours was the inclusion of both of Idreno’s arias and the restoration of some of Assur’s music including a cabaletta which no one had heard since the 18th century.

A bit of trivia: each of the three Horne-Rossini operas in the Carnegie series lost its originally announced European leading lady who was then replaced by an American. Agnes Baltsa was succeeded by von Stade in Lago; then Anderson for Caballé and for the final opera Lella Cuberli took over from Ileana Cotrubas as Amenaide in Tancredi.

Rossini: Semiramide

Carnegie Hall
10 January 1983
In-house recording

Semiramide: June Anderson
Arsace: Marilyn Horne
Azema: Stephanie Friede
Assur: Samuel Ramey
Idreno: Douglas Ahlstedt
Oroe: Eric Halfvarson
Mitrane: Walter MacNeil
L’ombra di Nino: Edward Crafts

American Symphony Orchestra
Orpheon Chorale

Conductor: Henry Lewis

Semiramide can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on its audio player and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

Several more great Rossini works will appear on “Trove Thursday” during the remainder of 2018. In addition to the Semiramide and Donna del Lago, these performances also remain available for listening or downloading.

L’Italiana in Algeri with Teresa Berganza from the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires 1970, Torvaldo e Dorliska with Cuberli, Valentini-Terrani, Pietro Bottazzo, Siegmund Nimsgern and Enzo Dara conducted by Alberto Zedda, and La Cenerentola with Claudio Abbado leading a champagne La Scala cast headed by Valentini-Terrani, Luigi Alva, Dara and Paolo Montarsolo.

“Trove Thursday” podcasts since the series began in September 2015 remain available from iTunes for free, or via any RSS reader.

 

 

 

  • Inge Jensen

    Yes, Semiramide is finally back at the Met. And it’s good to see that it will be part of the Met’s HD season. The cast for the performances in 1990 would be impossible to replicate today. Let’s hope this cast of excellent singers provides us with the performances Semiramide deserves.

  • Camille

    Just what I wanted for Valentine’s Day!

    Of late I’d been hoping and wishing for a pre-MET Junie-General Horne version of this but wasn’t sure it even existed, so this comes as a most welcome surprise! The old boys in the galleria at the Teatro dell’Opera were still talking about “La Yoonie” when I arrived there in early 1985. They were so in LURVE with her — going into panegyric orgies on how her high notes hit the proscenium and bounced off and all around the theatre. It was a true love affair! Our own grimoaldo ain’t the only one.

    An extra in this edition will be that second tenor aria, as I’d like to hear that, too. Wonder if Camarena will be conceded that one, too? I sort of doubt it. Brownlee did not sing it in the Alden installation.

    Thanks, and once more with feeling, to the Pirate King, who continues to give us the best of the best. I had not realised there was a Lella Cuberli Rossini opera in the midst and some day or another before I die I’ll listen to Torvaldo e Dorliska, in which I have a faint interest, possibly provoked by having heard an excerpt in a concert somep 20+ years ago or so. I am not at all familiar with Cuberli’s career trajectory but her stint at the MET as the B-Semiramis seems a bit odd to me, as she would seem to have merited something more? A woman’s career being the strange thing that it is. Just ask La Cieca!

    • david alden

      Hi — it absolutely killed me that we had the incredible Larry Brownlee in Munich for Semiramide last Season and we had to cut his first aria (we were given a very strict time limit of less than 4 hours including a damn 35-minute intermission). But in the recent London performances (also in the 4-hour limit) we made some new cuts and sneaked the first half of the Act One aria back in. It was sensational, not only because Larry is a genius but because the architecture of the piece suffers without it. You f**k with a masterpiece and you may regret it!

      I am doing a new Lohengrin at ROH this coming Summer — strangely, when doing Wagner opera houses never hassle you about length or insist on cuts. A double standard!

      • Inge Jensen

        So true about the double standard ( Rossini/Wagner) Thank goodness for Opera Rara which will be releasing an uncut Semiramide this spring.

        Brownlee is deservedly much loved and will be singing at the memorial for Philip Gossett today in Chicago.

        • Camille

          I am glad there is a memorial and I would go if there in Chicago.

          May he rest in santa pace and we thank him for his manifold labours in the fields of belcanto, his zeal, his dedication and his great love of opera.

      • Camille

        Yoo-hoo Mr Alden!!! Oh, PLEASE come back here to

        *SAVE OUR SEMIRAMIDE*!!!!!!!!

        We need your help!! Come BACK!

        Yes, I thought Brownlee’s performance in that MünchnerSemiramide surpassed himself and he is on a new high. I am very pleased for him.

        [Yes, with Wagner the longueurs are never long enough!!]

        • david alden

          Hi Camille — My Lucia opens in Oslo in 3 weeks, there is a revival of my Budd at the Bolshoi later this month, and I begin a new Stuarda in Zurich soon, so I am tied up! I think the assistant on S/ramide at the Met is Roy Rallo — talented and experienced as he is, I am sure the show is in good hands — I would just get in the way…

          • Camille

            That is both very good to hear, and very kind of you to bother allaying our trepidations about this important recreation of acomparatively rare production, and thanking you so much for troubling yourself!

            Since this production will be beamed around the world in the HD series on March 10th, it is likely the first exposure, ever, of many to an important Rossinian opera seria, and therefore critical it show up in its finest form. I’m relatively sure the Pesaro people will be watching attentively to see how it goes over as its success may have some positive impact on their Festival, although its true fans will have already been converted.

            Might I also add I look forward to your return at the Metropolitan Opera someday, if that is at all feasible for you. Your Ballo in Maschera was at first something of a challenge for me, (a non-Regie person), but after working with it a while, on the third try and quite suddenly, I found the key to it and was able to enter into your particular vision of this very great work.

            These old works all need help of some sort, particularly so with the more remote primo ottocento style of Semiramide and looking even further backward into the sei- and settecento works, and that’s not even considering the even more remote sources of their storylines. Now, I can certainly see the need for fresh ideas and new insights in putting these work across, however, the hope that the director’s vision would always include some real respect for the composer’s and librettist’s vision of the work, or at least a glancing knowledge of it(!) -- will always be paramount to me. Sometimes, I’m not so sure there is any particular knowledge, let alone the respect for the work at hand.

            As I know you and others in your profession must face myriad trying and nerve-wracking challenges in doing your work, not the least of which would be dealing with singers in various states of unstrung being and dozens of other attendant workers, what I felt was the manner in which you discharged your duties in the two instances I’ve witnessed, the METBallo and the truly splendid Semiramide, has given me some hope for seeing works in newly thought out editions, coupled with the corollary hope that I’ll not always be tweaked or punked, Innovative thinking I’m all for, being made fun of, not. The old épater les bourgeois thing having become by now a rather stale, jejune, and obvious tactic in my book.

            This Munich production of Semiramide has affected me so very postively and spurs me on in hope of seeing other such works renewed. After having long avoided this opera for its various longueurs, I’ve now become an admirer of this last in line of Colbranian splendours, and willingly developed the necessary mental SitzFleisch to sit it out. The older and opulent production of Mr Copley’s will now seem an interesting contrast, after first having been introduced to the work in your own installation. It’s also likely I’ll enjoy a greater understanding of the byzantine structures of the libretto than I’d have previously, on account of the way it was clarified and brought forward in the Munich edition.

            And thank you again for being courteous to an ancient anonymous lady, as it is as much appreciated as well as it is unexpected, and pray forgive my long-windedness, another affliction of old age.

      • Robin Worth

        Absolutely. Brownlee was great and the piece held together beautifully. Of course, Joyce di D. had something to do with that!

    • PCally

      My guess is that Cuberli, who lived in Italy, was married to an Italian man, and sang almost exclusively bel canto, baroque and Mozart, probably was never going to be a fixture at a place like the met, who had big house mozart stars and never did bel canto and baroque with any regularity outside of the chestnuts. I also get the impression her voice and vocal style wasn’t ideal for the met. Her coloratura is exactly the flashy, balls to the walls variety of a Sutherland while Anderson was more in that mold. I also think Cuberli was probably just a tad bit past it by the time she finally got there.

      There’s a lot of very impressive singing floating around on YouTube and I do wonder why I hadn’t even heard of her until recently.

      • Camille

        Yes, and thank you for your thoughts. My suspicion is her voice may have been a tad smaller than what is needed in That Barn and indeed, she is stylish and tasteful while flash and splash may have been necessary to get those huge sets and OTT production over and with those commensurately overwhelming costumes.

        I have not forgotten your Mitridate examples, either, for which I am grateful.

        • PCally

          I’ve been a bit of Cuberli obsessive of late, wish there was a way to find out more about her, she’s treated pretty obscurely on the web.

          • She sang quite a bit in Paris back in the day… I saw her several times and was glad to but it’s too far back for me to remember now what I saw her in (that’s what makes keeping a blog so useful). Rossini and/or Mozart probably.

          • She sang quite a bit in Paris back in the day… I saw her several times and was glad to but it’s too far back for me to remember now what I saw her in (that’s what makes keeping a blog so useful). Rossini and/or Mozart probably.

            • PCally

              Lol that’s visible in her videos. Technical fault? Westbroek does the same thing.

            • If pulling faces is a technical fault then some singers are a lot faultier than Lella Cuberli.

        • southerndoc1

          Cuberli was already at least 45 by the time she got to the Met for her house total of 9 Semiramide performances over two seasons -- she seemed to fade from sight fairly quickly after that.

          • PCally

            Yeah it seems like she had some tough nights and then just retired without warning

            • southerndoc1

              Only heard her once -- Rossini Desdemona at Lyric. On that night, real problems with intonation and a lot of crooning.

              I’ve seen some good reports on her Mozart recordings with Barenboim, but I’ve never heard them.

            • PCally

              Those recordings were the first things I’d ever heard from her and I take it that they were made late-ish in her career (around the same time as her met debut). On all three she’s in good voice but the tone is on the dry side and kind of croony like you said. The Fiordiligi is lovely, one of my personal favs (that is actually a really great all around Cosi, very underrated IMO). The Countess is well sung but kind of dull and not really competitive with more famous interpretations. YouTube has bits of her in those parts from much earlier and she’s terrific. Live recordings capture her sound better in general I think, there’s less of a dry edge and she sounds freer up top. The Donna Anna is fine but sounds a bit big for her (the live recordings from Salzburg a few years later in the Chereau production finds her sounding a bit worse for wear, though I’d kill for a video of that production).

              On the other hand her Sifare is IMO the best available after Persson and her Gunia is remarkable if not entirely effortless (both were made in the mid-eighties and I think they both sit better for her and play more to her strengths and both are live).

      • Luvtennis

        It wasn’t “small” -- a term I dislike when speaking of voices -- but it was very soft-grained. Frankly I think she had a branding issue. She got her start internationally after HvK promoted her. Then she was a concert singer. Later she was promoted as a Mozartian. Then as a bel cantista. She was hard to peg, and not an obvious first choice for any of her rep. The instrument was lovely without being exceptional (except in how she deployed it) so she was hard to promote.

        Junie had one the greatest coloratura techniques ever captured for posterity. An ironclad technique that gave her great security and confidence. And one of the greatest upper extensions EVER. She had only one problem … she came at the tail end of one the greatest eras in operatic singing and so her strengths were misjudged.

        Can you imagine the impact June would have now if she appeared as her 1983 self???? Especially with the renewed interest in bravura vocal music?????

        Timing.

        • PCally

          I see what your saying but Cuberli was already pretty significantly established by the time Von Karajan came along, which wasn’t at least until the mid eighties. By then she’d sung a bunch of Rossini alongside Horne and had made almost all of her non mozart recordings. I do agree that given her endowment she was never going to be an obvious first choice for any one role unless a specific conductor championed her (Barenboim).

          I only saw Anderson a couple of times late-ish in her career when she’d started singing some heavier stuff and she was unfortunately quite poor and audibly struggling. I do think her coloratura ranks with the best but it’s just not a sound that I find particularly beautiful or even very memorable. I do love it when sopranos in bel canto are game for interesting productions. Both Cuberli and Anderson seemed pretty down to work with a lot of different directors who styles were not traditional.

          • grimoaldo2

            “Both Cuberli and Anderson seemed pretty down to work with a lot of different directors who styles were not traditional.”

            Yes, don’t know about Cuberli but Anderson spoke about her frustration that bel canto operas did not, usually, attract directors who were interested in opera as theatre. She wanted to be stretched dramatically and was always willing to work in non-traditional ways.

    • “going into panegyric orgies on how her high notes hit the proscenium and bounced off and all around the theatre.”
      They were so right, Mme. Camille! I remember sitting mid-orchestra at the Met for La Yoonie’s Lucia and Gilda.
      It was the most extraordinary thing, but when she hit a top C or above, you would swear a big golden bell had been struck, and the reverb lasted for a second or two afterwards, somewhere behind and above me. Wonderful singer.

      • Camille

        Oh, that is very interesting to me, Milady, as it confirms exactly what my old guys said to me, again and again about La Yoonie. (They knew I was a Stati Uniti girl, so they were trying to be kindly and supportive, I suppose!) Sitting at that place in mid-orchestra, a lot of the time the sound doesn’t even reach very well, and seems to shrivel up in the air and particularly in the case of Mmes. NN. It’s rather an acid test for me of what a singer has or has not to give.

        I’m guessing you are getting your hi-note-ometer all polished up for the 19th, aren’t you? See you then!

        • Camille, I have such mixed reactions to Meade. I think you have also expressed some, ahem, reservations, about the lady’s voice as well? Perhaps not the voice per se, for she has one, but how she deploys it. I shall forgo this round in the house, but will definitely listen. The production (I adore the Golden Wings’N’Things outfit) is fine for park and bark I suppose. I will be sorry to miss Mr. Camarena’s barking in person, but Rossinian tenor gymnastics are not really his strong suit any longer; never really were, not when compared to say JDF or Brownlee.

          From the rehearsal clip of Meade’s “Bel raggio” I can tell that my high-note-ometer would be satisfied with that nice top E, but besides that, there’s little else to satisfy and that’s often my problem with her. The middle of the voice can be so untidy, uncollected, and the flashing passagework traced over the closing bars of the cabaletta lumber along unmusically. Top notes are glorious and exciting and I’m a fool for them, but without the rest, or at least some of it, they’re just notes.

          And vis-a-vis Mme. Cuberli, never got the fuss. She started out well, but when she began to emerge as a bel cantista, the technique was still, to my ears, unfinished, and remained so until she wafted off back to Texas. That said, I do think she’s quite good in that old Viaggio a Reims set led by Abbado.

          • Camille

            Milady! I’m just going to shut my eyes, think of England, and pray for the best!

            One never knows what she will do! Maybe the chance to star in a production in which she is not the cover for Anna will pique her primadonna vanity enough to spur her on to heights of E natural greatness.

            I agree about Camarena. I have not heard him equal his Elvino--yet. But I am quite fond of him so that’s another reason to go. I have never attended this staging, either, which is flights of the fantastic. All in all I’m going to have a good time and ain’t gonna let Big Angie spoil my fun and who knows--she may be good??????!!!!!!!!

            • Ah, je ris! Think of England indeed. Well, you’re right, she may be good! She surprises me all the time -- much of her Caramoor Imogene in Pirata was very fine, and her recent Met Norma was well-sung, for the most part. But that’s it -- when she’s good, the voice is beautiful with good top notes and pianissimi, but it all seems to be just skin deep and no more. At least to me.
              Brackweaver, you’re right about the middling (written for a somewhat vocally compromised Colbran) tessitura, Angela could circumvent that with some inventive variants.
              But, and this is odd to me, I thought Angela absolutely winning and charming, and vocally lovely, as the middling tessitura-ed Anne Ford.
              Oh Camille, don’t get me wrong about Camarena, I love Xavier. That Elvino! And Arturo last season. Idreno is just sort of a “meh” part. I wonder if he will get both his arias -- he should -- I want you to get your money’s worth! Now next season’s Fille du regiment with Mme. Yende is a must-see, and I’m sure ( I hope) it will be a sellout. When I saw Yende and Camarena listed for the Pecheurs revival, I thought, wistfully, some day, with that pairing, Lakme…. The Met is (over) due and I know it’s a lost cause, but I can dream.

            • Camille

              That is quite a nice idea about the looooong overdue Lakmé, and I had wished so that Dessay would have brought her version of it back here to kickstart a reëvaluation of it and because I was certain she’d have made it work, but that did not happen. There was that edition at NYCO and starring the then rising star of Elizabeth Futral, but I only read of it as was not here at that time. But did you go to it? Your casting idea of those two is pretty optimal and I’d wish it so!

              That, and Mignon have been kicked to the curb and banished to a kingdom of délices far, far away. I have never seen either one in any kind of a production or concert--thinking OONY did do the latter but I wasn’t around for it.

              Yes, I hope Camarena gets his first aria too but I rather doubt it will happen because of timing and the way the work meanders on. As much as we can have of him, please and I’d love to see another, NEW edition of Sonnambula with your afore-mentioned pair or at least him. I never liked Elvino at all but he wrought a miracle with that role and sang it most beautifully and with soul and fervor and meaning. Bravo!

            • Speaking of Mme. Dessay, that Sonnambula-Zimmerman mess was her recommendation to Gelb, I think, and perhaps based on the rather better reception accorded Ms. Zimmerman’s Lucia production. Juan Diego was in fine voice (Natalie, less so, and out of sorts) but his expertise was as joyless as the production, and the whole vibe. At least to me.

              But… right you are, Camarena’ Elvino, on the other hand, really made music, a person, made me interested in Elvino (a first!). Damrau’s vocal chemistry (she was still in pretty good voice then) with him put the performances over in a way the premiere run had not. Their singing almost made you forget what you were seeing. So Yende and Amina sounds like a match to me, bring on Xavier, but dump the Zimm.

              Ah! good luck selling Mignon to anyone today, but I agree, with the right director and cast it could be a successful. Hell, Martha was recently sprung from mothballs, and Flotow’s creation is festooned with lots more of grandmere’s old lace than Thomas’ more variegated, tuneful score.
              p.s. I liked Futral, but missed the NYCO GlockenLady revival.

            • southerndoc1

              And, ages ago, wasn’t the Sonnambula planned for Bartoli?

            • I don’t recall, that would have been in the last century, since that was when Ceci last graced the Met stage! She seems to have parted ways with the Met on a sour note after that controversial run of Susannas. I suppose a Sonnambula revival for her was put to bed then and there.

          • Brackweaver

            I share your concerns. Unwritten embellishments aside, it’s a Rossini soprano role that might sit a bit too often in that middle.

            • grimoaldo2

              Yes I didn’t want to be mean and say that filling our ears with this fabulous performance from June and Horne is going to spoil the upcoming Met shows for us…but, having recently seen Meade and deShong in Alcina, you could not, in fact, pay me to go and see them in Semiramide, they were both so horribly boring. Another long opera with long arias, by the time I was into twenty minutes of them in the Handel I was longing to escape. But, maybe, somehow, they will be much better in Rossini than they were in Handel, good luck and good wishes to all.

            • Camille

              grimoaldo--I hope you see this as it’s a bit of good news I hope.

              Next year The English Concert will be presenting Händel’s Semele in concert at Carnegie Hall, (in March I think and I’ll go check the program insert). It will star the splendid Brenda Rae, an excellent young soprano whom I first made acquaintance of in another English Concert edition of Radamisto a couple years ago.

              So now you know and can start saving your pennies up for a trainride up here in the springtime. It may not be April in Paris but it will be better than December-January in NYC.

            • grimoaldo2

              Thank you for the info Camille, will definitely keep that in mind!

  • grimoaldo2

    Wow oh wow! (swoon)
    I didn’t even know about this performance.
    The first time I ever saw la June was at ROH in 1986 also in a concert of Semiramide with Horne and Ramey conducted by Lewis only with Chris Merritt as Idreno.
    http://www.rohcollections.org.uk/performance.aspx?performance=11910&row=0
    They were all fabulous and Anderson’s singing, heard live, thrilled me like no other before or since.
    How amazing, and fortunate, that she was the stand-by for Caballé.
    This is indeed something to store away in one’s treasure trove, I have downloaded it immediately, many many thanks.

    • Agree 1000%

    • Camille

      I am so happy for you! This is a place to go for you when all else in life is dross and to safely recover your soul. xxxooo

    • It must have been springtime when I first saw her with A. Kraus in La Fille du Régiment in Paris, because at the end she was showered with daffodils, and as daffodil stems are worse than banana skins, she nearly came a cropper on the slithery stage.

  • PCally

    Off topic but Cuberli sounds incredible in the New York tancredi. Her prime years as Semiramide are also pretty stunning.

    • Inge Jensen

      Yes, in fact in the New York Times article written by Gossett in 1990 he does refer to the cast ( Cuberli, Horne, Merritt and Ramey ) as four of the world’s greatest Rossini singers. Perhaps Cuberli’s voice was a tad small for the Met. She is not the only Rossini singer to have that challenge.

  • guy pacifica

    Thank you,CC. This is a FANTASTIC performance. Thanks for posting. You have definitely upleveled my Thursday at the office!

  • David Campbell

    I’ve got the ROH Semiramide with Anderson and Horne. Love it. As a point of interest I have a live recording dating from a wet november afternoon/evening in 1998 which i believe is complete The cast includes Nelly Miricioiu as Semiramide and Patricia Bardon as Arsace. Excellent sound If anyone is interested and it’s allowed I could post the link to the website which has loads of Miricioiu’s live recordings to download for free

  • lucidamente

    150th anniversary of Rossini’s death.

  • Brackweaver

    Thank you for posting this. It was a trip down memory lane.

  • gryphone

    I was at that 1983 Carnegie concert. We had a friend who worked in the CAMI office and he told us at breakfast that morning that Caballe had canceled. I was terribly disappointed. BUT June Anderson delivered the goods and was terrific. And Horne was of course superb. It was quite an evening.

  • Antikitschychick

    Thanks for sharing this recording! I just bought my ticket for the performance of Semiramide on March 10th which I think is the day of the HD. It’ll be interesting to compare the in-house experience to the transmission afterward for sure. I also bought a ticket for the Boheme that same night so am going to repeat my binge from a few years ago of back-to-back operas. I would have wanted to see Elektra that Friday night as well but unfortunately I have to work and won’t have enough time to get to the theater by 8. Oh well. Such is life…

    That Boheme performance is going to be the last of the run. I’m really looking forward to it since Yoncheva and The Fabs are my new favorite opera pairing (for Italian & French opera). It certainly has the potential to be a very memorable performance and it’ll be my first time seeing that opera live in it’s entirety. As for Semiramide, I think Meade is going to kill it, and it’ll be a treat to see and hear Camarena again. DeShong is a singer I’m not really familiar with, although the one time I did hear her, which was in The Enchanted Island HD from some years ago I was impressed.