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On this week's WCPE Opera House, the late Al Ruocchio (1937-2007) presents Gioachino Rossini's Semiramide. First performed in Venice in 1823, Semiramide was once famously called the last and most beautiful of the great baroque operas. The description is in some respects inaccurate: later Italian composers looked back to it on occasion, and Verdi's Aida unquestionably owes something to its monumentality. Rossini's source is a play by Voltaire that overlays the legend of Semiramide, the promiscuous queen of Babylon, with echoes of the myths of Orestes and Oedipus, together with overtones of Macbeth.

Following an Overture that borrows themes from the opera itself (thereby making it unsuitable for use in another work), the high priest Oroe (bass Spiro Malas) declares the day sacred to Baal and calls upon Queen Semiramide (soprano Joan Sutherland) to choose her successor to the throne of Babylon. Prince Assur (bass Joseph Rouleau) hopes to be chosen. As Semiramide calls upon Nino, her dead husband, there is a clap of lightning and the sacred fire on the altar goes out. Arsace (mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne in a "trouser" role), commander of the army, returns at the command of Semiramide. He eagerly anticipates his reunion with his beloved Princess Azema (soprano Patricia Clark). Before his death, Arsace's father told his son to give certain possessions to the high priest Oroe. This Arsace does. Oroe tells Arsace that his father was murdered--and implicates Prince Assur, who is furious that Arsace has returned to the capital. Assur tells Arsace that he intends to marry Azema. Semiramide herself is in love with Arsace. She is comforted by an oracle that predicts her sufferings will end when Arsace marries. Semiramide names Arsace as her Consort and husband. Assur protests. The Queen gives Azema to the Indian King Idreno (tenor John Serge). An earthquake indicates the wrath of the gods. Nino's Ghost (bass Michael Langdon) returns from the grave and commands Arsace to avenge his father.

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WCPE Education Fund

WCPE Education Fund

When your contribution is at least $50.00, you may, in lieu of choosing a gift, designate that 10% of your donation go toward the WCPE Education Fund. Please check the appropriate box in the Secure Pledge Form!

The Metropolitan Opera Announces the 2017-18 Season

The Metropolitan Opera’s 2017-18 season will feature 220 performances of 26 works, including two Met premieres, one co-commissioned by the company and one an older masterpiece having its first Met performances; a variety of repertory favorites, three in new productions; and performances of Verdi’s towering concert work for soloists, orchestra, and chorus, the Requiem.

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