Notes and Editorial Reviews
Rossini wrote Semiramide in the winter of 1822/23 for La Fenice of Venice.
The libretto is based on Voltaire’s drama Sémiramis, written by the French philosopher and scholar in 1748.
The librettist, Gaetano Rossi, had already collaborated with Rossini on La cambiale di matrimonio (1810) and Tancredi (1813), two works that were premiered in Venice. As we mentioned before, for a long time Semiramide was considered the artistic apex of Rossini’s serious production. Only Guillaume Tell, in 1829, rivalled the supremacy of this masterpiece, which, as a matter of fact, still has to be fully recognized as such. In some respects a conclusive opera, Semiramide contains, like all masterpieces, traditional elements alongside innovative ones. Rossini accentuated the role of the orchestra, compared to his previous serious operas: the Sinfonia, the longest and most elaborate Rossini ever wrote (together with that of Guillaume Tell), immediately suggests Rossini endeavored to give the instrumental part a more important role than usual.
The role of Semiramide calls for a singer with qualities both of dramatic and coloratura soprano; bel canto agility is, in any case, required of all the main interpreters of this opera, from the contralto (Arsace), to the tenor, (Idreno) and the bass (Assur).
This is a ”huge” opera from all points of view. Semiramide summarizes and completes Rossini’s serious arc, and is paradigmatic of all that would follow. Donizetti and Bellini, even though with a completely different spirit, would draw liberally on its almost inexhaustible musical vocabulary.