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The Story

Semiramide has ruled for decades, after conspiring with her lover Assur to murder her husband King Nino. Now she is due to elect her successor. Assur assumes the crown is his, but is furious when Semiramide leaves it to the young officer Arsace, whom she loves. Only the high priest Oroe knows that Arsace is Semiramide and Nino’s son, lost since his father’s murder.

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Background

Rossini wrote Semiramide in 1823, his last year in Italy before moving to Paris. The opera makes a fittingly magnificent finale to his Italian career: its astonishing structure and span anticipates the sophistication of his later masterpiece Guillaume Tell, while the blistering and virtuoso title role – written for Rossini’s wife Isabella Colbran – inspired many later composers, including Bellini in his Norma. Based on a story by Voltaire, the tragedy sees its characters wrestle against fate as the story propels them towards the harrowing finale, to music of magnificent beauty.

David Alden directs a new production for The Royal Opera. He describes Semiramide as ‘hard and political, almost as if it is carved out of stone, and what lies beneath is like a Greek tragedy’. He gives the opera a 20th-century setting, in which Semiramide rules an authoritarian state. He has assembled a team of regular collaborators to bring this late, great Rossini tragedy to the stage, in The Royal Opera’s first ever production.

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