Farewell to Italy:
Semiramide, Gioachino Rossini’s last opera for the Italian stage could well be dubbed Tancredi Revisited. There is evidence that Rossini thought the end—the death of Semiramide, Arsace’s grief at her hapless killing, his attempted suicide, and his acclamation as king—too swift. For the Paris revivals of 1825–1826 he extended Semiramide’s death throes. Stage decorum required that she die behind the tomb of Ninus, but there is no denying her tragic status. There is no authority for the happy ending (“Arsace stabs Assur’ rather than “Arsace stabs Semiramide instead of Assur”) proposed in the libretto of the distinguished gramophone recording of the opera in which Joan Sutherland sings the title role. Like Iago, Assur is destined to meet his end by other means.
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