Last Friday I attended Rossini's Semiramide at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. The libretto is based on Voltaire's play, the opera itself was written in 33 days and premiered at La Fenice on 3. February 1823. This production premiered 24. May 2003. Alberto Zedda, a specialist in Baroque opera, conducted well. The music throughout was incredibly beautiful.
The singing was good. Only contralto Jennifer Larmore, as Arsace, was a bit quiet, her voice is very pretty though it does not project well. Darina Takova was strong in the title role. Bass Simone Alaimo also was strong, and had perfect diction. Tenor Bruce Fowler as Idreno was perfectly adequate, with a nice enough voice that is not distinct.
The production was a mixture of all sorts of things, headed up by Kirsten Harms with Bernd Damovsky doing sets and costumes. The action all takes place inside a concrete box that looks very much like part of a parking complex at an airport. Complete with emergency exit signs and security cameras. The statue of Bel looked fairly normal, but the priests wore fake white fur aprons over their suits. Some people had fifties clothing, others wore what could be considered "ethnic" and were veiled. There was some inexplicable man with a control panel including levers and lights who wandered about. They did a good job with Arsace's costume, a trouser part, they put Larmore in so many layers that any womanly shape she may have had was obscured. In short, the production was boring. No one seems to know what to do with opera seria and this treatment was neither here nor there. Though I was pleased and surprised they did not have anything going on during the overture.