Accessibility links


Sign In
  • Home
  • News
  • Your Reaction: What did you think of Rossini's Semiramide?

Your Reaction: What did you think of Rossini's Semiramide?

Audience reactions and press reviews of David Alden's Royal Opera production.

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

20 November 2017 at 12.23pm | 42 Comments

Press reviews:
Telegraph  ★★★★★
Arts Desk ★★★★
Evening Standard ★★★★
Guardian ★★★★
Bachtrack ★★★★
Times (£) ★★★★

The Stage ★★★
WhatsOnStage ★★★

What did you think of Semiramide?
Share your thoughts via the comments below.

Semiramide runs until 16 December. Tickets are still available.

It is a co-production with Bavarian State Opera and is staged with generous philanthropic support from Mrs Aline Foriel-Destezet, Mrs Susan A. Olde OBE, John and Susan Singer, Michael Hartnall, Mrs Philip Kan, Trifon and Despina Natsis and the Semiramide Production Syndicate.

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

20 November 2017 at 12.23pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged by David Alden, Production, review, Semiramide, your reaction

This article has 42 comments

  1. Rosemary McDonald responded on 20 November 2017 at 12:51pm Reply

    Astonishing,sublime singing particularly by Di Donato and Barcelona. the duet "Girona d' orrore' was absolutely glorious. Brownleas soaring top notes amazed. Sad though that Pertuisi was taken ill I hope he recovers soon but his last minute replacement was no disappointment. I could have done with a little less facing walls in frustration and furniture moving though , and what was all that arm flapping about with poor restricted Azema.? Orchestra and chorus at their best.

    • ERic FIrkins responded on 29 November 2017 at 10:57am

      I agree about your your comment about the arm flapping of Azema. I took it as a sign of her traumatic experience that she suffered before being rescued by Arsace.

  2. Philip Barnett responded on 20 November 2017 at 1:24pm Reply

    Stellar central performance by DiDonato supported by first rate singing (soloists and chorus) of a second rate opera in a third rate production. I would give it 3* but would not be surprised if it got 2 or 4.

  3. Peter Lewis responded on 20 November 2017 at 1:50pm Reply

    Not quite sure why it took so long till this was performed again but when you have the talent available like yesterday then the 4 hours simply fly by. Such wondrous singing and added to by the chorus and orchestra on top form.

  4. Mike Martineau responded on 20 November 2017 at 4:16pm Reply

    So many big parts and all so well sung. Joyce is always magnificent. Loved it. Comment from someone as we left “Italian Opera with Wagnerian length”. Amazed it isn’t performed more often. Fabulous piece of music.

  5. Zebedee Johnstone responded on 20 November 2017 at 7:30pm Reply

    The combination of Joyce Di Donato on top form and Tony Pappano made for a truly superb evening. It was made all the more memorable by the impromptu "role sharing" by Michele Pertusi and Mirco Palazzi. Some elements of the production were bemusing but the overall impression was visually and intellectually sound. Personally I prefer Joyce's interpretation to that of the previous 'gold standard' of Joan Sutherland - high praise indeed. Full marks to all concerned!!!!

  6. Martin Neill responded on 20 November 2017 at 11:17pm Reply

    A tweet above mentions audience booing. Really? I was at ROH, don't know where they were....

    • Roy Hiscock responded on 21 November 2017 at 12:37pm

      There was some booing of the production team from the amphitheatre.
      I disliked the production, which I found over-fussy and more than a tad racist (perhaps I'm oversensitive in that area) - but to boo on this occasion was, I think, inappropriate: the performance was outstanding. On paper, this cast should have been pretty great and often high expectations can lead to disappointment: not here - if anything all our hopes were greatly exceeded.

    • Philip Barnett responded on 21 November 2017 at 1:07pm

      in the amphitheatre - where I was - but I would never boo. too well brought up!

  7. Jacky Tarleton responded on 20 November 2017 at 11:50pm Reply

    We were at the general rehearsal and were utterly overwhelmed by the whole experience. The singing, especially from Joyce DiDonato and Daniela Barcelona, was wonderful. The chorus sang and acted superbly. Tony Pappano, in the pit, brought out every nuance of Rossini's score. I could not believe four hours could pass so swiftly. The tunes, ah the tunes, they were just to die for, sweeping along one after the other in rapid succession. When Joyce DiDonato and Daniela Barcelona sang their exquisite duet in act one it sent tingles down my spine - it was heart-stopping. Indeed, I have not enjoyed an opera as much as this since Werther in Zurich last spring (that is high praise indeed!). I do hope you will show it in HD at the cinema. I had seen, and enjoyed, Semiramide in Nice in 2015, but this intelligent production, with these singers, and Tony Pappano conducting your ROH orchestra, was on a whole new plane, and convincingly made the case for this opera to be included in the Rossini repertoire.

  8. Marie-Louise Dreux responded on 21 November 2017 at 12:04pm Reply

    You will just not hear better singing than that presented in Semiramide. Joyce Didonato is phenomenal, as a singer and an actress, while Daniela Barcellona, Lawrence Brownlee and a great effort from Mirco Palazzi perform almost as astonishingly. Maestro Pappano and the orchestra and chorus are in top form. The production makes sense of the story, and is ok. I saw almost the same cast in Munich last year, and they’re now in total command of this piece musically. The production was less busy, and worked better.
    Anyone who wants to hear truly astounding singing, do not miss Semiramide.

  9. Ann O'Shaughnessy responded on 21 November 2017 at 5:29pm Reply

    I was at the opening performance last Sunday and I am still thinking about this amazing production. I waited to see what the nay-sayers could find to complain about and am delighted to see they are in the minority. I did not hear any booing - the applause was deafening and well deserved. Four hours flew by. This is a fabulous production, beautifully dressed and imaginatively presented. Musically it was a triumph enhanced by singers who can also act. The orchestra, as usual, was superb. Well done one and all.

  10. Gianluca responded on 22 November 2017 at 11:56am Reply

    For me best Semiramide ever was in concert performance at Royal Opera in 1986 with June Anderson, Marilyn Horne and Samuel Ramey.

  11. Stephen Ratcliffe responded on 22 November 2017 at 8:54pm Reply

    I have heard live 3 thrilling Semiramide performances. Chelsea opera, opera rara and now this wonderful production. This definitely the best of them all. Was there on Sunday and still have the tunes in my head. Thanks to all concerned

  12. LabLady responded on 23 November 2017 at 9:47am Reply

    Forget the four hours, the world just stopped completely. The singing is just off the scale gorgeous - and I have never heard the Chorus as good. All the leads superb and the acting, and the sets, and oh and oh THAT diDonato/Barcellona duet ...ah, everything about it. If money was no object I would go again tonight. See it - will be the best four hours of your week.

  13. Alex Kennedy responded on 23 November 2017 at 12:20pm Reply

    Let's talk about the good first. Maestro
    Pappano is a great conductor. The
    orchestral playing was outstanding , so too
    was the chorus. The soloist were all
    singing their hearts out. Some were
    spectacularly good. BUT , yes there is
    a big but, I realised with the overture ,
    although scintillatingly well played, that
    brevity was not gong to be one of the
    great features of this opera. Rossini new
    how to write spectacular vocal music
    but when one hears one great solo, duet
    etc etc after another one feels a bit
    sickly. It was like eating a big box of
    chocolates at one goI have an old recording that I have played only once over the years.
    I shall be happy to hear excerpts sung
    by expert singers but , alas, although I
    am glad I have seen a performance,
    one will be enough.
    The production was abysmal. Changing
    periods can throw the story ot of kilter
    and the poor soprano, Jacquelyn
    Stucker, was carried on and off stage
    like a rag doll. I suppose it was to
    show that she was a pretty piece of baggage to be used by others .i think that
    could have been shown in a more subtle
    way. Miss Stucker gave a great performance and hopefully as her
    career progresses she will be able to say
    no to such stage direction. At the end
    when Semiramide is killed by accident,
    I don't see how that could have happened
    Since the stage was quite brightly lit.
    I suppose that was to show that the Gods
    we're in charge !
    There was warm applause at the end .
    I appllauded too, for the singers , chorus ,
    orchestra and conductor.

  14. Roger Woodward responded on 23 November 2017 at 2:22pm Reply

    For me, everything was absolutely terrific - orchestra, soloists (especially Joyce Didonato, Daniela Barcellona and Lawrence Brownlee) chorus and costumes. However I was disappointed by the set design and by extension the production which I found dull and uninspiring. I saw the final rehearsal, from a seat in the orchestra circle, and there were several significant moments when the soloists disappeared but, from other comments, it seems that the dark spots in the lighting plot had been ironed out by the opening night. I was really surprised by the very lukewarm response from the audience at the final curtain - maybe that's the usual experience at a dress rehearsal? One would imagine the house was full of opera enthusiasts which would guarantee a rapturous reception.

  15. Brendan Quinn responded on 23 November 2017 at 3:16pm Reply

    Rarely read comments like this on this page! Can't wait till Saturday night!

  16. Margaret responded on 23 November 2017 at 3:24pm Reply

    Magnificent Rossini, Pappano, Soloists, Chorus, Orchestra.
    Horrendous production.

  17. Janet Rennie responded on 24 November 2017 at 2:29pm Reply

    one of the best evenings at the ROH ever! Di Donato was stunning, with masterful control of range, breath control and acting. She was extremely well supported, with all the other main roles being filled by fantastic performers. Many spine-chilling moments. In addition the orchestra and chorus were on top form. I did not mind the production, which did serve to make the story clear. do not miss this!

  18. Stefan responded on 25 November 2017 at 11:55pm Reply

    Good production, very good performance (singing and acting) from DiDonato, Brownlee. And I found the performance of Daniela Barcellona outstanding. Very good work done by the lighting designer.

    Didn't understand the choice for the costumes, but do not need to understand everything.

    The extremely disturbing part in this evening performance was how ROH approaches cases, if someone from the audience, collapses. A gentleman sitting in the middle of the orchestra stalls collapsed. Half of the row had to stand up and help to get the gentlemen out of the row who was then laid down in the corridor o the orchestra stalls.

    The paramedics, who were sitting in the stalls circle and thus didn't see it, didn't react as promptly as if they would if they would see it.

    The manager of the evening didn't stop the performance and it seems that ROH expects that people shall enjoy the music and singing while someone is lying on the floor attended by paramedics, who arrived and helped the gentlemen. It was a member of the audience (maybe a relative or friend) who helped one of the paramedics to carry the collapsed gentlemen out of the auditorium.

    When I spoke after the performance to the manager for that evening at the entrance, I was told that that is the normal procedure. A lady from ROH standing next to him defended this approach by stating that if they would stop the performance, it would disturb more people and in any way it wouldn't help the collapsed person. It is the second time I witnessed this attitude at ROH. As said, visitors shall not care if someone collapses in front of them, shall neglect it, focus on the music and singing, whether or not someone in front of them is in worse case scenario even dying or not. Show must go on.

    From my point of view this is an inhuman approach from an institution which shall pursue humanistic values.

    Because of the mentioned above, although the music as conducted by Pappano (who couldn't see what is happening behind his back and nobody made him probably aware of this) and very good performance by singers and choir, I couldn't enjoy this evening properly.

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 26 November 2017 at 9:04pm

      Hi Stefan,

      Thank you for your comment and for your concern for the gentleman taken ill during the performance.

      Please be assured that the welfare of audience members is our priority and of upmost important to us. As the member of staff you spoke to stated, where possible we try to avoid disrupting the performance. Of course, there may (and have been) rare instances where disrupting a performance would be unavoidable, and this would be the decision of the Front of House Manager. However, in this case, it was deemed that this was not the most appropriate course of action in the circumstances.

      The gentleman concerned was attended to as soon as possible by members of St John's Ambulance, and was taken to the Pit Lobby with the assistance of another audience member as you state. He was treated while waiting for an ambulance.

      In reference to your separate query, comments are placed in moderation as standard before publishing. You can find out more information about our comments policy at

      Best wishes,


    • Stefan responded on 27 November 2017 at 11:53am

      Hi Chris,

      thank you for the response and for confirming, that it would need to be something really extraordinary in order to disrupt an production at the ROH. Don't want to think what it would need to be.

      In all the other cases, I presume it is expected from the audience, that if someone collapses, not to care in first place about the wellbeing of a real person, but to focus on the performance of an opera.

      Maybe some people are able to do that. I have personally a problem to focus on a performance, if someone could be in danger of life and do not see an expected reaction from staff. The usher came in after some time when called by visitors and the paramedics were not called in as quickly as expected, although they were in the auditorium.

      I didn't suggest that the performance should have been stopped at once in an disruptive way. I was just expecting that once Daniela Barcellona finishes her aria there would be a short break. /The gentlemen collapsed in the beginning of her aria, the visitors had to stand up, to get him out of the row and to lay him down on the floor/. It would require just short break to bring the gentlemen out of the auditorium. And the performance would commence.

      Daniela Barcellona finished her aria, nothing has happened, the gentlemen was lying on the floor attended only by visitors, paramedics came later, and the performance just continued. And it took some minutes until the gentlemen has been brought outside of the auditorium.

      And I was getting the feeling that not the health of a person is the most important, but the fact that a production is not disrupted.

      Best wishes,


  19. Nadine Risso responded on 26 November 2017 at 2:39am Reply

    What a privilege to see such incredible performances in an evocative production. Joyce Di Donato mesmerising and charismatic, made my heart ache.

  20. Greg Hocking responded on 26 November 2017 at 12:14pm Reply

    I was there on Wednesday and loved it,especially the dramatic and committed conducting.A very rare opportunity to see this superb Opera.Joyce Di Donato was spectacular as was Lawrence Brownlee.The 3rd choice baritone seemed somewhat overparted.The production seemed basically to be a waste of money-the moving walls etc did nothing to enhance or even explicate the drama.But that is often the case these days.A firm hand is needed on unnecessary/gratuitous physical production costs which mean fewer productions.

  21. Alec Nacamuli responded on 26 November 2017 at 12:37pm Reply

    An amazing musical performance, Daniela Barcellona was a revelation and the duets with Joyce DD were beautifully balanced. The production was entertaining and (unlike some recent ones) did not diminish the enjoyment of the music; one quibble though: why is Azema depicted as a bald puppet?

  22. peterstephen responded on 26 November 2017 at 8:47pm Reply

    25/11/17 performance. As ever the most wonderful singing and music. But I kept asking myself why am I looking at the inside of a lift or a 1950s office- that horrible green settee to accompany a most poignant moment. I would love to have been transported to ancient Assyria, to witness their art and design in the relevant setting. What's wrong with me?

  23. Brendan Quinn responded on 26 November 2017 at 8:59pm Reply

    40 years of going to the ROH. The quality of the singing last night was why on occasions I still walk out of that place totally stunned. Those two duets between Joyce Di donato and Daniella Barcellona were just so beautiful ....the second act duet worth the trip from the west of Ireland, it was one of those moments that live with you forever. Loved everything about this night, truly wonderful!

  24. C. Maeder responded on 27 November 2017 at 11:10am Reply

    Joyce di Donato was stunning, the beauty of the voice, the amazing breath control and her acting. It could not have been better. In addition well supported by Barcellona and the wonderful Larry Brownlee. An evening to remember for a long time.

  25. Jeannine responded on 27 November 2017 at 12:50pm Reply

    An overall very good performance though DiDonato isn't June Anderson (no high notes and sometimes short of breath) and Barcellona isn't Horne (she often changes the score to avoid low notes). Pappano is simply terriffic ! A pity half of Brownlee's first aria was cut (1 minute of music) : when you get such a singer, why don't you let him sing !

  26. Patience Humphries responded on 27 November 2017 at 3:53pm Reply

    I saw the opera on Saturday, 25 November and was truly blown away by the performances of all the singers, especially di Donato, Barcellona and Brownlee. I feel very privileged to have heard them sing. The only gripe I have is that I feel that the stage set and production let them down a bit. The flooring reminded me of some old kitchen lino I had. Regarding stopping the performance because of an unwell opera-goer, I think the ROH did the right thing to carry on with the performance. It would have been far more disrupting to have stopped the performance and would have been very unsettling for the singers. The gentleman was being cared for anyway.

  27. C. Maeder responded on 28 November 2017 at 10:55am Reply

    Remark on Jeannine's comment. Rossini wrote the role for his wife Isabella Colbran who was wildly believed to have been a mezzo soprano. You cannot compare the two voices.

  28. Jeannine responded on 28 November 2017 at 4:59pm Reply

    Remark on C. Maeder's interesting comment. Colbran wasn’t a mezzo (BTW the term didn’t exist in those days): in her prime, she could sing a high F on a good day (G.Appolonia in “Le voci di Rossini”), or at least an E (pitch has been lowered since these days, but Naples’s one was notoriously high, so it should still match with a present high E). But you’re right in a way: her voice deteriorated rapidly (Stendhal complains about it in his “Life of Rossini” written when the composer was only 29 !). That’s why Rossini didn’t write any high notes for her in his last Neapolitan work: she simply couldn’t deliver them. However, singing Semiramide like Sutherland, Cuberli or Anderson did is completely relevant ;-)

    • C. Maeder responded on 12 December 2017 at 6:59pm

      You are right Jeannine the voice type "mezzo" did not exist in Rossini's days.Sutherland started the fashion to introduce these high notes. ( she told me I knew her well ) Anyway what is the obsession with high notes? Caballe never did them. Sutherland was really the only singer who's voice expanded the higher it went.

  29. Linda Farrell responded on 28 November 2017 at 7:22pm Reply

    I didn’t care much for the staging but was blown away by the singing. Joyce DiDonato, Daniela Barcellona and Lawrence Brownlee in particular were amazing as was the conducting by the great Antonio Pappano, the ROH orchestra and the fantastic ROH chorus. A day truly to remember. I have the Sutherland, Horne, Rouleau version on my iPod that is also great.

  30. Stephen Jay-Taylor responded on 29 November 2017 at 5:11am Reply

    And another remark on the Jeannine post above. FACT: the second half of the aria "Ah, dov'e il cimento" was indeed cut, with hair-raising musical brutality, but the rest of the piece, beginning with "E se ancor libero" lasts a full FIVE minutes, not one (though it is possible Brownlee didn't fancy his chances in the written high D at the end of it). And never mind Anderson in the role, I heard Caballé, Horne and Ramey together in the Pizzi staging, and this current cast cannot begin to compare technically with them at any point.

  31. peterstephen responded on 29 November 2017 at 10:45am Reply

    The best nights at the opera are when there is a coherence between composer, orchestra, conductor, singers and the audience. Everybody has to be on form to facilitate these rare magical evenings. Why then do we employ directors who bring discord to this process and deprive us of such an exquisite experience by distracting us with their oblique associations? J'accuse directors who are so determined to make their own statement that we come back for more despite them, not because of them.

  32. George Kingston responded on 29 November 2017 at 1:22pm Reply

    A great evening though a pity about the brutal Idreno cut. And re illness, when I fainted once, on an over hot evening, the staff were brilliant and I'm pleased that no interruption was needed! But of course every case is different.

  33. Nick Cherry responded on 1 December 2017 at 3:59pm Reply

    Just incredible.

    A big round of applause to everyone involved. The 1950s-style set might be not to everyone's taste (fairly topical but bizarre) but who cares when the singing, orchestra, chorus, costumes etc are this good?

    The duets were probably the best live singing I've heard, and, yes, you could feel a collective intake of breath in several parts of Act I. Spine tingling. And to think DiDonato could perform this well even when she was ill!

    A tremendous achievement.

  34. Peter responded on 5 December 2017 at 11:58am Reply

    Fantastic singing from all the cast, it certainly never felt like a 4 hour performance.
    Pity about the directors concept which added nothing to the opera.

  35. Richard responded on 9 December 2017 at 7:07pm Reply

    Utterly ghastly, incoherent. ridiculous production. di Donato stranded at the front of the stage for an absurd lingering death. The whole final scene with zero direction and useless, meaningless lighting was sub off off Edinburgh Fringe standard.
    The finest live singing I have ever heard.

  36. It didn't felt like 4 hours! The singing and acting were incredible and the music was phenomenal. The sets were spectacular and the costumes superbs! I think this production is really astounding! The view in the box was alright, but apart from that I had a wonderful time!

Comment on this article

Your email will not be published

Website URL is optional