Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
29 August 2018
“Rossini’s great opera, ‘Semiramide,’ was produced last night with success. The music is not of that stirring, passionate nature which distinguishes the works we have had up to the present time; but still it is marked by most melodious passages, and drew from the audience, which was not as large as on the previous evenings since the commencement of the season, warm applause.
Mme. Guerrabella (Semiramide) was a most pleasing representative of Babylon’s Queen. She sang with success a role which taxes the powers of the best artists. At the conclusion of the first act she was called before the curtain amid continued applause.
Signor Biachi, in the role of Assur, achieved a well deserved triumph. He sang and acted with great effect. In Europe this role was considered the most commendable effort of this truly eminent artist.
Signor Minetti gains in favor with the audience each time he is heard. He sang the part of Idreno with success.
Mlle. Sulzer (Arsace) sang and acted her role most pleasingly. Her aria in the first act was loudly applauded.”
“Academy of Music.—The performance of ‘Semiramide,’ last evening, was all that a lover of mere vocalism could desire. Signor Biachi, as Assur, rollicked in the roulades of his part as blithely as an infant in its nurse’s arms; Mlle. Sulzer, in her tremendous scena of the first act, displayed an excellent executive ability; Mme. Guerrabella, as Semiramide, expressed her emotions in the most accurate of periods, and Signor Minetti demonstrated that he is a good pupil of the school of Rossini. We think in vain of a part that was not well interpreted; and yet the performance lacked spirit. The opera has never been a successful one here, although one of the best the maestro ever wrote. To explain this we must look at the libretto, and here we find a lamentable lack of action. The first act (subdivided into two acts last evening) might be played in a concert-room, so little does the scene add to the illusion. This defect is a radical one, and becomes in the end a bore—especially with a public not thoroughly familiar with the music. And so, although the artists we have named were excellent, the performance dragged, and failed to elicit that warm response which the excellence of the singing really deserved. Of the Assur of Signor Biachi, we have no hesitation in saying it is the best vocally we have ever heard. In mere facility of execution, nothing better could be desired; but apart from an insufficient profundity of voice, it seemed to us that he lacked ease and repose in the part, and hence the breadth which comes of those two qualities. Signor Minetti sang with exquisite taste; and the two ladies were good, but deficient in volume of voice. The orchestra and chorus—strange to say—were not up to the usual standard, although Signor Nuno, a most able and excellent conductor, presided in the conductor’s chair.”
“A performance of the opera of Semiramide is probably the severest test in the Italian dramatic repertory of a thoroughly trained and naturally ductile voice. It is almost cloyed with the richness of its ornate passages. From beginning to end it teems with traits which have proved a storehouse to other composers; sometimes a little altered, but recognizable to the initiated, under their disguises. The fashion for music has changed; and we think in many things for the better; but still, the sumptuous character of the Semiramide strains remains unsurpassed.
The cast, last night, was as follows: [Lists cast].
Semiramis must be handsome in addition to other political qualifications, and certainly Madame Guerrabella looked every inch a noble and beautiful classic queen. Besides, we have never heard her to the same advantage. She executed the music with much brilliancy; and increased in force as she proceeded during the evening. Mlle. Sulzer sang the gay griefs of the young prince in all their rapid turns and runs; and called forth liberal applause in her solo. The part of Idreno gave Signor Minetti very little to do. Signor Biachi affords a specimen of the old classic school of singing. He possesses the utmost flexibility of voice; and executes with the most artistic finish.
There is so much dull priestly work and ponderous recitative in Semiramide that it drags at times on the stage, notwithstanding its superb music. If it could be compressed a little, it would be better; not that there are not operas longer, but their stage business being lively, their length seems less.”
“‘Semiramide,’ once one of the most popular operas in the repertoire, was revived last night at the Academy of Music after a repose of some three years. In the days of Palmo it was given with Borghese and Pleo, with brilliant effect, and later—some twelve years ago, Parodi and Amalia Patti (now Mrs. Strakosch) attracted it in fashionable and admiring audiences. The engagement here of Grisi, with Mario, Vietti, Susini, and Badiali, in 1854, was the occasion of another ‘Semiramide’ excitement, which was very agreeably renewed in 1855 by Lagrange, Didier and Morelli, while a year later, Vestvali as Arsaces completely captivated opera-goers by her brilliant, dashing style of acting, rather than by her mere vocalization.
Vocalization, however, was the chief charm of last night’s performance. Guerrabella sang with great finish and execution, and was in appearance and action as beautiful and regal a Semiramis as could be desired, though the voice did not, in mere power, always equal the demands upon it. Sulzer, with her neat execution, sang well, but lacks the dash and vim which the part requires. Biachi exhibited an astonishing command over a rather ponderous voice, and acted with great vivacity, restoring the unusually-omitted dramatic scene in the last act. Minetti did all that could be done with the trifling part of Idreno. And yet, admirable as was the performance in many respects, it dragged towards the last act, which, by the way, contains the least noticeable music, and leaves the unsatisfactory impression of an anti-climax.
Guerrabella and Biachi were called before the curtain. Sulzer won considerable applause for her execution, and the entire performance is well worthy an early repetition.”
“New York.—Semiramide was performed by Maretzek’s groupe last Monday evening. The Tribune says: [quotes NYTr review from 03/31/63].
“All in affecting to be abstinent, out of respect for Holy Week, the opera nevertheless gave four performances; it is true that the two premieres could well have passed for Lenten sermons. Semiramide and Lucia were rendered as meagerly as possible, and those who attended them could believe upon exiting the theatre, without too much effort, that they had just done penance. Maretzek wisely brought the audience back to the regime of Norma and Linda, which brought him back the former crowds and bravos.”
“The revival of Rossini’s ‘Semiramide’ confirmed the experience, which has been often made during the last thirty years, namely, first, that the singers for this kind of music do not belong to the present generation, and, secondly, that the music itself is old fashioned and consequently very tiresome. No doubt, the genius of the Italian maestro shines in this work as bright and perhaps brighter, than in any other of his serious operas, but to hear for three hours runs and fioritures must necessarily tire the ear, even if they contain real sparks of melody, and are handled with the consummate skill of a Rossini. The richest materials of an old fashioned dress will not cause a lady of the present day to wear it, unless it be on a bal masque, and perhaps it is owing to this, that hearing and seeing ‘Semiramide’ at the present time, makes somewhat the same impression, as if we assist at a masquerade. There is certainly as little truth in the one as in the other.
Mad. Guerabella [sic] sang ‘Semiramide’, as if she had plenty to do, to hit the notes correctly; Mlle. Sulzer was the spiritless Arsace, we have ever seen, not to speak of her execution, which was by no means brilliant, and Signor Biachi (Axur) gave us an idea, how to bark the music of a past period, when it cannot be sung. We need hardly add, that the impression of the whole was by no means cheering, as was amply proved by the fact, that after the third act more than half of the audience had left the place.”