Rossini’s “Semiramide” is arguably one of the finest operas that the composer created. Being his final Italian work, Rossini had attained a depth of craft that represented the culmination of years and years of steady work.
Unfortunately, “Semiramide” is also monstrously difficult to mount and when it opens at the Metropolitan Opera on Feb. 19, 2018, the performance count for the opera at the famed company will still be below 30. In fact, since the opera first opened with the Met in 1892, it has only appeared a total of 28 times with five leading ladies taking on the title role. Angela Meade will become the sixth soprano to sing the role at the Met.
So here is a look at the sopranos who have conquered one of the most fiendishly difficult roles of the bel canto repertoire.
The soprano only appeared once in the role with the Met. And she didn’t even do it in the house. She performed it at the Mechanics Building Auditorium in Boston on March 22, 1892.
Melba was the first true Semiramide at the Met, performing the role on Jan. 12, 1894. She would go on to sing it eight times total, the final performance taking place on Jan. 25, 1895.
After Melba, the opera would disappear from the Met for nearly 100 years. It would make a return on Nov. 30, 1990, with Lella Cuberli in the title role. She was making her Met debut alongside Chris Merritt and Youngok Shin. She would sing four performances in the run and then turn things over to June Anderson. However, she would return to the role for two more performances when Anderson fell ill. And in 1993, she would get another three showcases in the title role. Her final performance in the role is the last to date.
Anderson’s interpretation is preserved on video and she did perform the opera three times fully at the Met starting on Dec. 15, 1990. However, by the time she reached the fourth performance, she was ill and unable to go beyond the first act.
Prior to Cuberli’s final run, the Met brought in Weidinger to perform the role in fall of 1992. She gave a total of seven performances, the final one taking place on Nov. 20, 1992.