Cher Public

Hemisemidemiramide

See, the problem with trying to revive Semiramide today is not the work’s vast length, its superhuman vocal demands, or even that bit of bother about an adorable elderly uncle’s roguish camp humour. The real issue, surely, is competing with the memory of the spectacular casting lavished upon the work during the golden age of the Volpe era.

Metropolitan Opera House
October 26, 1992

SEMIRAMIDE {19}
Rossini-Ga. Rossi

Semiramide..............Christine Weidinger
Arsace..................Gloria Scalchi [Debut]
Assur...................Barseg Tumanyan
Azema...................Youmi Cho [Debut]
Idreno..................Frank Lopardo
Oroe....................Jeffrey Wells
Nino's Ghost............Yanni Yannissis
Mitrane.................Michael Forest
Attendant...............Suzanne Laurence

Conductor...............Ion Marin [Debut]

Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

  • Tamerlano

    Christine Weidenger was a star! A star!!!

    • southerndoc1

      Lots of Inez and Auntie’s Niece during the 70’s, and then comes back 16 years later for the entire run of this killer role, and then vanishes.

      • Tamerlano

        She was a singer with a less than glamorous sound who managed to find a niche singing bel canto. She could be quite good in things like Lucrezia and even Lady Macbeth. I can admire any singer who has the guts and the smarts to reinvent.

        • Solovyov

          Yes, there’s some very good stuff available on Youtube. As you say she specialized in bel canto, and did a number of roles at the Liceu as well as in Germany.

  • MissShelved

    Off topic (sorry) — but chances are I will have increased opportunity to visit the Met in the coming season. Any tips, especially timing,for scoring tickets?

    • Damianjb1

      I live in Australia and prior to my trip to New York a few years ago I bought tickets online through the Met website. It was easy. And then once I was in NY I bought tickets for further performances at the box office. In one case on the day of the performance. In terms of reduced price tickets I have no idea.

    • Bill

      MissShelved -- if the 2018-19 Met season is anything like
      the 2017-18 season at the Met, you should have very little trouble getting tickets for most of the performances even at the last minute -- empty seats galore in most categories
      (sadly)

      • MissShelved

        I have noted this, sadly, as well.The HD broadcast of last weekend was decidedly sparse. I’ll be in NYC before the end of this season and see no reason not to depend on rush tickets at that time. (I do know that one is limited to 1 rush per week, and have friends to supplement.) But I don’t mind admitting that Fanciulla is one I really don’t want to miss and probably the ONE likely sellout. So any tips on how to hit the ticket sales as they are opened to the (non-subscriber) public?

        • Bill

          MissShelved -- if I recall correctly the open
          single ticket sales for the new Met Season
          each year used to commence in August on a designated date -- but perhaps that was just the box office. With the dearth of ticket
          sales in recent seasons they may have moved up the dates -- usually subscribers and Guild members used to have first dibs
          at the box office. Tomorrow the Met reveals it’s new season to its subscribers who have
          some months to renew to maintain their
          specific seats. I have not read anything specifically on the matter but presume that
          the number of full subscribers at the Met is down from a decade ago. Of course years ago a subscriber had no idea when booking the subscription what operas or even what dates would be on the subscription -- only the day of the week -- but Rudolf Bing for example could go to Salzburg, Bayreuth,
          etc and sign up singers that summer for the fall season if the opera companies to which they belonged would release them for the
          period of time Bing desired. Now a Netrebko for example probably has much of her schedule penciled in if not fully contracted five years in advance. Of course the Met in the old days also had a cadre of singers who were generally at the Met’s disposal during much of the Season and they could count on a Steber, a Tucker, a Thebom, a Stevens to be available and probably also for the Spring tour. People used to subscribe as it was not always so easy to obtain single seats and
          except for the non-Subscription days and a few benefit performances (for the Vassar fund and a few other outside Charities) the bulk of the desirable Met tickets seem to have been pre-sold to subscribers. Insiders on this blog would know about all the current procedures .
          But I would venture that with or without Kaufmann most of the Fanciulla performances will not be sold out but tomorrow you can ascertain how for how many performances he has been contracted.
          Saturday Matinees seem to be more popular at the box office -- easier for elderly patrons to get in from the suburbs.

  • La Cieca
    • southerndoc1

      Now we know what Copley said to get fired:

      “Angela, you’re blocking the ziggurat.”

    • Dan Patterson

      Oh, this is SO MEAN! I LOVE it!

    • “Just something I saw in a window…”

  • Brackweaver

    I seem to remember that it didn’t sell seats.

  • August
    • southerndoc1

      Was that the planned casting?

      • Solovyov

        The planned casting for the 92-93 Met Semiramide revival was Gruberova and Horne.

        • Tamerlano

          Yuck. Gruberova is not the right voice for Semiramide. Joonie’s was.

          • Niel Rishoi

            Oh good, I get to chime in here. Please fire back when you’ve read this, and don’t hold back…

            You wanna talk “yuck”? It is LoonieJunebug.

            She’s a drag in the MET video.

            Anderson looks movie-star
            gorgeous, slender and lithe in her costumes. The role, vocally, holds
            absolutely no terrors or restrictions for her: barely a note is out of
            place, and she handles the demands with serene ease.

            Anderson’s problem, and a significant one at that, is dramatic. She
            cannot move, walk, gesture, react, or physically enact the role with any kind of
            theatrical flair or meaning. Her face is placid and blank. She often
            stands with arms rigidly, straight down, head either back, or chinned
            forward, shoulders hunched up. Her hand gestures have no natural
            expression, and they are worse than those of the stock variety: they
            lack conviction. Energy of a sloth. Offstage, Anderson is nuts, temperamental, throwing dumbassed shitfits (despised as a colleague too). Couldn’t she have parlayed this into her stage presence??

            Her reading of the role could be considered
            extremely bland. Words lack crispness, enunciation is lazy and
            unfocused. Moreover, she fails to take the opportunity to imbue the text
            with any color or meaning. The role of Semiramide is rife with
            emotional variety -- there’s the hushed fright of “trema al tempio,” the
            sensual, radiant joy of “bel raggio lusingshier,” the queenly, imperious
            “i voti vostri omai…giuri ognuno” (especially lame), the horrified
            terror of “qual mesto gemito,” the bristling, vigorous anger of “se la
            vita ancor t’e cara,” and the penitent, elegiac final prayer, “al mio
            pregar t’arrendi.” Anderson declines to find the dynamic range of
            expressive means. Too, there is a slowness of her tone to respond to the
            breath, as if she needs to “find” its moorings. One notable example is
            her re-entry into the aria, in a cadenza, after the chorus’s
            interjection; it stumbles at first, and then it needs time to propel
            itself forward. The texture of the tone is of one nap: soft, and lacking
            snap and crispness. Rhythmically, she’s often slack and fuzzy.
            Tonally…that slow, sluggish vocal attack, those strange pauses, the sinusy tonal quality, the indecisive attack…bland as a moist towelette.

            So let’s switch over to my allegedly prejudicial favorite, Gruberova, in her first outing in Munich, 1990.

            She may not be precisely what Rossini had in mind in terms of disposition of tone and color, but artistically, histrionically, she is everything Anderson is not: a vivid, dramatic presence, and Gruberova’s technique is better, the effects at color, dynamics, rhythm, text right on the words, and in sync dramatically and musically.

            The main points of interest I listed above, I offer them in their timing points on the YouTube video, and if you take the time to listen, you’ll hear what is missing in Anderson’s accounts.

            26:04 -- trema al tempio -- listen to the hushed fright, the whizzing, zipping energy

            51:57 -- bel raggio -- crisp enunciation, sensual sweetness in the middle section, and then the dazzling cabaletta, with a bang-on high e, done on the word gioia

            1:08:34 -- i vostri voti omai -- commanding, queenly, and authoritative -- and the giuri ognuno section, hear especially the brilliant upward flights, the fiery declamation

            1:18:47 -- qual mesto gemito -- the grave, gray-toned fright, the straightening of the tone

            1:33:00 -- se la vita ancor -- fabulous. Bristling with anger, rhythmically propulsive, accurate coloratura -- and she and Ramey are mind-boggling together

            2:37:34 -- al mio pregar -- penitent, remorseful, sung with deep pathos.

            Elsewhere, enjoy Gruberova and Kuhlmann, superb in their duets.

            Sound is not great. RCA was supposed to record this, a live concert. Ferro, the conductor, nixed it, unhappy with the orchestra. Pity. Great cast, Matteuzzi also outstanding.

            That’s it. Listen, compare, get back to me, and tell me if it is still yuck…

            Happy listening! :-)

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VyexRYzp84&t=4276s

  • Camille

    Does anyone happen to know who the cover for the title role is? Thanks.

    • manou

      Meade is wearing the cover

      • Nelly della Vittoria

        That’s not very nice, as anyone can see she’s wearing the curtain.

        • Camille

          You know—

          Reflecting upon this — if Scarlet O’Hara could wear curtains, why shouldn’t others sport them as well . . . .?

    • Llewellyn Sinclair

      The cover is the fantastic Australian soprano, Helena Dix

      • Camille

        Thank you, Mr Sinclair.

        I have some familiarity with her name and have noted it in the roster of singers but do not recall any specific roles she has sung, so I will investigate. And pray for the lucky occasion of her appearing in the role.

        • Armerjacquino

          Camille- a google brought up this intriguing nugget…

        • Llewellyn Sinclair

          My pleasure, Camille. I don’t think she’s appeared in a performance at the Met yet, but she’s their go-to cover for the big girls: Norma, Elettra, Leonora, Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux, Elvira in Ernani etc etc. I hope she gets her much-deserved hour in the spotlight soon. Definitely a name to watch. Have a great day!

          • Armerjacquino

            Funnily enough, never having heard her name before a couple of days ago, today I saw a tweet of hers RT’d into my timeline, saying that she’ll be making her Met debut next season as Alice Ford.

  • Antikitschychick

    That is certainly an elaborate costume Mrs. Meade is wearing! And it’s one of several…I am so looking forward to seeing/hearing this! Not least of all because its one of Rossini’s more serious operas which I am not that familiar with.

    I was generously offered a ticket for the final dress rehearsal tomorrow by Marshie but unfortunately I can’t go, which is a real shame since based on previous experience, it seems to me that the singing is even better in rehearsal sometimes than in the actual performances. Oh well…

    I look forward to the performance on the 10th, which I’m sure will be great since it’s the day of the HD transmission. I don’t think I’ve sat in a box before but I will bring my own binoculars this time and maybe a score if I can get my hands on a good one ????.

  • Paul Johnston

    The final dress rehearsal is now a closed one

    • Countessa Salome

      Why is that?