Cuts – “A reprehensible decision”

It always amazes lovers of Rossini’s operas that his works are often deemed too long. There are operas by Mozart and Wagner that are equally long. Often people are under the mistaken impression that due to the structure of Rossini’s operas it really doesn’t matter if they are “cut” here and there.

One of the greatest Rossini advocates of our time ( who was also a scholar and teacher) had this to say about “Semiramide”:

“The fascinating aspects of Rossini’s vocal music are brought together in
‘Semiramide’ better than in almost any other opera…..To cut the da capos, suppress Idreno’s arias and shorten the extended instrumental introductions, choral pieces ( including the one with the important solo part for Oroe) and splendid orchestrated recitatives– which happens too many times to count- is a reprehensible decision. Idreno’s arias have a marginal function in respect to the main action, but whoever believes that they were composed to please some singer has not understood the fundamental need to introduce moments of repose in the musical discourse to break the unsustainable tension created by the terrible confrontations between Semiramide, Arsace and Assur.”

Thus wrote Alberto Zedda in his book “Divagazioni Rossiniane”, recently translated into English by Charles Jernigan and appears as vol 8b of the Deutsche Rossini Gesellschaft’s publications.

Should you be fortunate enough to attend performances of “Semiramide”
at the Met this spring or to see the transmission in a movie theater, keep in mind that cuts might be inevitable because of the realities of the “opera business” today. But fear not, the complete “Semiramide” will soon appear in a recording made for Opera Rara.