The Munich 2017 “Semiramide” Liveblogging Thread Reloaded, pt. 1

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Welcome to the reloaded White Shirt live comment thread for Rossini‘s “Semiramide” (2017) from Bayerische Staatsoper Munich, staged by David Alden, with Michele Mariotti conducting. This time, without hiccups and tech glitches! (thanks again, B.)

Cast Listing (*AAAAAAAaaaaaaaah!*)

Semiramide – Joyce DiDonato
Arsace – Daniela Barcellona
Assur – Alex Esposito
Idreno – Lawrence Brownlee
Azema – Elsa Benoit
Oroe – Simone Alberghini
Mitrane – Galeano Salas
The Ghost of Nino – Igor Tsarkov

The production is not available visa the BSO any longer, but has seeped into circulation thanks some valiant captures at first hour (you know who you are!) and the weekend re-stream on demand, which likely everyone else will have captured and filed away for frequent enjoyment. (If you would like to liveblog along and do not have watching access, drop us a comment below or write us a private message)

Today’s liveblog will only cover pt. 1 (up until the intermission) to assure work capability of assorted White Shirts who otherwise might have problems with office performance tomorrow.

Libretto: Italian (pdf), English/Italian (pdf)

335 thoughts on “The Munich 2017 “Semiramide” Liveblogging Thread Reloaded, pt. 1”

      1. i just started Brigitte’s version, not interupted.. right into middle of overture.. but i have just sat through a new edition of Zedda’s SEmiramide overture from Madrid, so i’m all set!

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            1. perfect (aren’t these phones great) – the religious fanatic just appearing on stage does not seem to agree. neo-Rasputin,

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            2. oh, you’re right, i better pay attention to the plot.. he has his stature, so someone like Lenin (or Ho Chi Minh, or Jesus)? we had to bow to both when we were growing up, weekdays to 1, weekends and each night to the other…

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    1. glad to have been able to contribute something useful 😉
      I also have to ask for a favour. Could anyone of you capture a concert livestream for me tomorrow evening? I shall be there in Konzerthaus and don’t know anybody who could or would do that for me. Currentzis/Kopatchinskaja/MusicAeterna, Mozart Violin concerto and 3rd Beethoven symphony, It will be streamed by Fidelio https://www.myfidelio.at/live/

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      1. The tech wiz among us is thadieu, but I think she is out of town this weekend for Antonacci?
        My old W7 is too slow to capture and store, but we’ll see if we can figure something out! (but isn’t Fidelio a private Pay channel?)

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        1. I could try audio, via phonoplayer, but the last time I tried that, my computer was still faster than it is now. Is it on OE1 public broadcast, too?

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          1. Thanks for the offer Anik, but oe1 has some Massenet at the same time from Musikverein. Audio recordings usually are not that much of a problem, can be preset. But do not worry, friends in Zürich might enjoy their first live stream capture success and there might even be a later on demand option, I heard from Fidelio.

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            1. Glad to hear that’s sorted out! If you asked me, between Musikverein and Konzerthaus, I’d pick the Konzerthaus most of the time…!

              >

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          1. Thanks, but I don’t have Mac, I have “experts system” Ubuntu while not being an expert, which sometimes comes with a bit of trouble, but thankfully thadieu can help with it.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. yes, really enjoying how he starts off (now wondering if he ever studied with Zedda…).
      And the hair game is A+!

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  1. I was soo nervous during the overture at the live performance, you know, you’re finally there and no one has fallen ill, the plane was on time, acoustics apparently good…

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  2. Can we just keep the fanatic passed out in the corner?
    (well, if he is holding onto The Sacred Book of Mezzos, I understand his fainting spells)

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  3. I can appreciate that they went to eclectic mishmash to not attack a specific regime, but that also makes it very arbitrary and still kind of West-pointing-fingers-at-Muslim-Middle-East.

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    1. ja, totally not getting it.. so this is westerners in an eastern country? and the “great leader” is from which country? was he the foreigner who brought in the priest? coz he’s in sunglasses rather than turban in photo

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      1. I thought thery were going for a Shah reference of sorts with the looks – and then perhaps a dig at Syria, (sort of) Western-looking leaders getting entangled with nationalist religious fanatics for the sake of more power?

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    2. the blakfaced (veield?) extras polishing the linoleum with their knees still make me wince. For a “religious leaders prostrate before the deified former king”, it is not clear enough.

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        1. Also, I think insisting is relative in that context, he also kind of admitted in the interview that he is a bit confuse about his concepts in general ( I hope I’m paraphrasing correctly here, but that’s also my impressions from his stagings)

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          1. He gets great moments out of it, especially if he has singer-actors who connect those dots. Can’t blame him for not finding a visible line in some of his work if that is not what he’s aiming at.

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    1. But why??? What is the narrative purpose?
      (and I repeat the question for the arrival of the Indian Prince. Just add Lana Turner and you have a perfect colonialist 50s movie.

      …but Brownlee sings sooooo well here.

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  4. Brownlee still manages to like kind of good in this costume, although pretty much anything would have been better, Oh there’s Assur, I totally enjoy his acting in the video versions, was just too far away live.

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    1. yes, I like him better this second time around, and he REALLY works the stage.
      (still wincing at the choir costumes. The conflict between military and religious leadership is a solid point (think Egypt/Sisi/Muslim Brotherhood), but it’s much decor, and less actual political commentary?

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      1. It’s maybe the kind of voice that has to grow on you? He has some very sensitive moments. But who am I kidding, the baritone will never have a good starting position with me, voice-wise.

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        1. Not if there are certain bass-baritones around instead…?

          Just from the radio broadcast, I didn’t get the drive of his performance, but seeing him act, especially in the close-ups, gave me a new angle of listening to him.

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          1. Him and Gerhaher (I even have to fight with myself not to senselessly fall for Gerhaher’s Don G on his Mozart album). But otherwise: White shirts! (and maybe the occasional tenor)

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        1. Yes, actually quite an obvious idea! It was maybe hinted at by showing the (likely equally fanatic) “ghost” as a kind of Trump? But still, it wasn’t clear and should have been shown in the public as well, of course.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. And I like the idea that they did not want to move it away from Assyria and the fact that Assyria is Middle Eastern, but no matter what you do there, it’s either white-washing or othering.

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      1. I think – oh, and as I type, I am SO distracted by Barcellona stalking the stage and glowering at the beetles – I… where was I?
        Ah, the Borg — uh, sword….. – smiles… uh…
        yes, Borg. I think the idea (in overpainted Alden fashion) works well, to show Azema as a literal golden cage trophy, a piece of royal cattle with no agency that Semiramide (who is so dismissive of her that she does not even look at her, while Azema started at her voice – nice detail) barters of and that never even protests.

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        1. Can now read you comment without massive distraction…(can barely talk today due to flu, but write!) Did you see the twitter entrance of BSO “And Azema goes to…” with the Oscar picture next to the picture of her standing on that socket? Kind of fitting in this context.

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          1. Yes! The BSO social media commentary is a breath of fresh air lately, very attuned to the style of Twitter comments, really standing out in comparison to other houses, especially the big ones.

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          1. Yes very golden, but that’s Star Wars, R2D2, we have him in Lego. I don’t know the golden one’s name, have to ask son/husband. I think you will likely soon gain expertise on this from your nephew.

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            1. the other day i even got myself confused between Indiana Jones and Star Wars!! 😀 kept telling my friend i saw (on my trans-Atlantic flight) this Star Wars movie with a glass skull and didn’t like it at all due to lack of storyline.. and friend (who was a movie buff) was quite confused..

              Yoda we know, we once name Zedda after him no? “follow me, you will.” (your quote, from our liveblogs, note not only have i been re-listening to limegreen and Zedda and A.H. i’ve been rereading our convo…)

              Liked by 1 person

            2. yes, the Zedda character. 🙂

              the crystal skull!! admittedly, the only thing I remember of that movie is Cate Blanchett in an uniform and boots, so I can’t really protest here.

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    1. I thought it was a directing issue – “you have this one walk and need to fill the entire musical sequence, you can only take very small steps”? That makes for unsteadiness, and JDD works it with the facial expression and the discomfort and sort of guilt around the statue, and the barely suppressed ire at the religious cronies (and men?) around her. Her power never seems uncontested here, even when she has it.

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      1. I just thought it was strange because she masks her unsteadiness so well in the following scenes. And in the next public scene where she announces her marriage, she seems to have gained a lot of strength form the prospect of being with Arsace, then starts to waiver again for some moments when confronted by Assur.

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        1. But is is a different skirt then, already for Bel raggio (with the pants). Perhaps working the costume to show character, as you describe? Perhaps the first skirt was designed to stifle her, too?

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            1. it’s this dress/skirt with pants underneath she wears at some point, but I don’t know if it’s in Bel Raggio already?

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          1. WHOA! that’s definitely a lady in red. GULP.

            (is it weird that i was reading about Agrippina today in the context of studying up on anti-imperial readings of New Testament texts? my book did not describe her anything like this…)

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            1. well, that’s where the NT and opera nicely dovetail into each other on the issue of red. 😉
              (anti-imperial readings! who published that?)

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  5. The turban extras crawling all over each other like scattered beetles is a good theatre image, but I still find the costumes problematic.

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    1. I’m quite conflicted about the costumes in general because I absolutely agree they are problematic on the public and Idreno while on all main characters I kind of like that overdone style. (esp. in comparison with La Donna del Lago from MET which of course I had to re-watch and you think these costumes must be meant ironically but I don’t think they are)

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      1. Lol, precisely.
        For me, it’s about who gets to camp up whom – if Westerners do kilt mania: fun. But, in the current political climate, a severely othered context?

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      1. …what did costume design watch before this? also the mash-up of sword, bullets, quiver – we get it, he is very military and very heroic? And at least Agathe gets a new Robin Hood poster.

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            1. the Lego Ninjas have Ninja stars and katanas, so it must be the Playmobil knights. (#ParentConversations)

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        1. yep, she simply has the material and the timbre and that shiny density and yes I am aware that we escalated quickly into undignified fangirling but guuuuuuh….

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        1. oh yes, that is a beautiful take
          (though I also was bewitched by my first Amenaide, which was Maria Bayo in the production with Bernadette Manca di Nissa as Tancredi, and Bayo just smiled and the sun came up, and her voice sounded just the same. I wouldn’t watch that production again, though, at least not as gladly as Barcellona/Tankova. I need to dig out the DVD and produce a working file, I think it is too old to be on the YT circuit?

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      1. Is that the 2003 one with the monstrous feathers on entrance? Or is there still another one??
        I don’t think I’m good company if you want to get rid of that crush.

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        1. who said I wanted to get rid of it?!

          (I think the DVD is Florence 2005 – and it is a Pizzi staging??!! and I am sort of okay with it (though that explains the sexism) because Barcellona.

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            1. what’s our next datea after tnight, anyway? Fantasio still this week, or next week, or just Tancredi next week, and Fantasio at a later point?

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            2. Hmm, maybe postpone since thadieu is not there anyway and spouses would probably appreciate our company on a Sat for a change? Reg. next week program, tough choice, at the moment I would vote Tancredi first (I really have a lack of flexibility when I’m into something)

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            3. Mrs. Anik agrees with your suggestion. So… Semiramide 2 tonight, and then Tancredi next Sat (18th)? And Fantasio after that, perhaps?

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          1. Currently listening to the 1998 take, yes, amazing talent. Yet, I also think in the current take is only possible in the context of all that experience both acting- and voice-wise, showing a total ease with the role and the possibility to play with things.
            Also check out Iervolino’s youthful take vhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MJTh3ecpDc (what the hell is it with Italian contraltos?)

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            1. if they ever wanted to invent a weapon to render us incapable of even basic functions like breathing, look no further: than Italian Contraltos.

              But that experience thing, yes, I completely agree – I love the 1998, I love the 2017, I love that impetus Iervolino has, but it’s really showcoasing how much difference there is in portrayal even within the same singer over the years!

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          2. Sorry I’m not done yet, RE her vocal performance, it seems to me this part is more a Contralto than a Mezzo part, with the occasional (very effective) breakthrough to the upper range? She really has such an incredible large range.

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            1. jeah, i think that’s why i hear at times she’s “hitting the bottom” as in not wanting to change gear but it’s just down at that level.. and A.Hallenberg has a different place for shifting so she’s always hitting it more solidly to my ears (already after gear changed i think).. and the occasions i’ve heard VK singing Arsace’s entrance aria she was *really* switching gear (like how i drive stickshift!) . You should also youtube Ewa Podles for Arsace’s aria.

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            2. yes, another very different take, the loweest of all four here in vocal seat. it really coems down to people working with their breaks, Hallenberg sits higher and is perhaps the lightest of the voices, but I find her so utterly souvereign technically (seriously, it seems as if no one is getting how incredibly good she is technically) that she simply makes is work where many others with her tessitura and heft likely would have more difficulty to pull it off.
              That sort of lower soundscape and timbre Barcellona has (and Horne did that in a way before, but from a different angle) is really not the usual market fare, I think current ears are much more used to a Hallenberg range and timbre color.

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            3. You mean Hallenberg more solid in the deep notes? Strange, I think she is overall the lighter voice and the approach on the first aria was more introspective than energetic?
              Just listening to Podles, huge voice, but I have difficulties to adapt to the guttural way of sound production. I know she’s one of the big ones in this role so maybe she will grow on me.

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            4. i was only talking about the very lowest notes and how each singer lands on it, at least to my ears.. I think even during the lime-green liveblog i mentioned how much i enjoyed hearing how she “landed” on it.. Perhaps similar to how Anik described the gear-change place and Juditha the role? in that if the change is just high enough, then singers already switch gear and sing the lower bits in whichever voice they have.. whereas if the gear-change happens *just* at the place of the “landing” note and the singer chooses not to switch then it “fades” out rather than solidly landing on it (which sounded like it was with DB, hence i was already asking during the radio broadcast if the role sits low for her..)
              Apparently i hear low-notes landing very well 😀 (hence my compliments of how MP landed during Alcina, and supposedly will be the case if i ever get around to write about that Juditha in New York, how nicely Galou was landing everywhere, as well as with Francesca Ascioti..)

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            5. Ah, now I think I understand get what you mean, I think you’re speaking of the use of basically exclusive chest register in the depth as Hallenberg does. I think in general Barcellona’s voice probably sits lower (if you judge from the heft and timbre) but she chooses to take down a mixture of head and chest registers that’s why the “landing effect” is not so pronounced.

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            6. ja, just that 🙂
              Sadly, VK removed the video from her fb site, i hope it wasn’t because i was posting it outside… given that it was really public to begin with… but it was *very* interesting as she demonstrated *just* what we are talking about here: the student mezzo was hitting a low-note *exactly* at her transition and she either faded out completely (flat-lined) or fell out (it really sounded like the bottom fell off after the register change).. and VK was duplicating what the student did in both cases, then a 3rd way where, it was really amazing how she did it, you can “hear” it as she kept breathing and breathing.. and somehow she landed on the note solidly without it sounded like the above 2 cases. I guess this is what Anik explained about how each singer works on his/her transition. I’ve heard many cases also when VK herself chose not to switch gear and took a light toward the note (skimming just above, as she did in Sta nell’ircana in Wien).. and this is really the first time I get to observe exactly how she did the 3rd approach. It was super cool, i’m bumped it’s removed..

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            7. (perhaps someone saved it?)
              but yes, such an interesting insight into technical approaches!

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            8. I didn’t read it as “more solid in the deep notes”, but more easily adept in the upper range changes? Which may be a queation of how used we are to certain timbres/tessiture?

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            9. yes, contralto, but int he cotralto musico sense (mezzo range with a well-definde lower registers, but a flexible top extension, tessitura sitting deeper that mezzo, timbre a bit denser and more metallic), not in the sense of “oratorio contralto” of late 19th ctry or beyond – so in today’s (at least out of Italy) educations, more a low mezzo.

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            10. Interesting, I think the boundaries are very fluid here? Also I read somewhere most non-professional choir altos would be mezzos (or even Sopranos) but can’t go as high because not professional trained? While I think the solo alto parts in modern oratorio work or even Bach are usually sung by (professional) mezzo sopranos who would have the full range even if that’s not demanded in many works?

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            11. added issue that ACTUAL contraltos get so little exposure with how repertory is coninized (changing a bit these days with early music and Rossini) that it is a timbre that almost isn’t there anymore and that’s completely covered by mezzos who have a different way of producing the lower range.
              Apart from the whole fact that the idea and size of range has changed a lot since Rossini – Rossini still wrote within that early 19th century style up to later Falcon that was soprano sfogato with a solid mezzo range, with a gap and then a light, agile head register of a different color.

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            12. Very interesting I always notice with SP that she doesn’t seem to blend registers much, she would be a true contralto I guess. Maybe JDD would tend to that Falcon direction? But usually those parts are cast with Soprano’s I think?

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            13. Falcon would be more dramatic – more endpoint of that development; the type would more be soprano sfogato, and that is simply a vocal profile that isn’t educated any longer, voices like that wouldn’t make it into the music schools, probably with arguments of vocal health and voice pathology.
              With her top, I wouldn’t classify JDD as soprano sfogato, but perhaps if she had been educated following early 19th century vocal aesthetics?

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  6. And just when you think it can’t get any better there’s this exciting, playful interpretation of the final repeat section with Arsace getting quite carried away at his happy memory, Oh wow!.

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    1. Agathe, your mezzo crush is showing
      🙂
      (Not that wouldn’t be completely right about everything, that stretta really takes the cake there)

      Liked by 2 people

    1. probably – the fanatic knows how to scheme with a cooler head than Assur does? (and the trophy cannot even walk on her own, of course)

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  7. Assur gets a lot of grand illustrative action, but I found him more menacing in the Mustard take.
    Also the duet is kind of beyond purpose here since Assur is clearly not interested in Azema romantically, only as a ploy to more power, so it’s pretty much Arsace and him talking about two different things instead of fighting over Azema?

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      1. perhaps he just envies Arsace’s warmer coloratura skills. 😉
        (but yes, he cannot shake that confidence, and it rattles him – that was the vibe I got)

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh, the couch for a chaise!
    And JDD is doing the immersed pyschologcial (and not the illustrative gesture) kind of acting here, very present, lots of little mood shifts that start with music/facial expression and then move into the body.

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  9. I love this, especially in comparison with the other Semiramide – look at how JDD’s has agency and is more “hm, how do I not scare him off?”, ending up only late at a playful/hopeful note, then intercut with nerves again, whereas – OH GOD THE CGI BUTTERFLIES ARE HIDEOUS – whereas MP’s lime green take is so much more youthful, pleading, struggling for agency, and more romantically involved. JDD – oh, now the nice bit with young Ninia and the pony – goes for various other layers here, whereas the MP take is much more “in love”/fretful about romance, and not about the power.

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    1. I think in JDDs version the only way she can think of to get to him is through power not because she herself is lovable? Yet I think in people with a lot of power both things mix and they don’t get any more people are so nice and accommodating for there power not their person. And maybe that’s why in the end, while being a bit nervous about it, she thinks it the natural course of events that Arsace should want her?

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      1. oh yes, that captures it perfecty – thinking she can only get him through power and not ebcause she is lovable, thank you, that is what I meant and couldn’t put into words!

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  10. and only NOW the romance nerves set it (and how she dismisses Mitrane, a lot less “girly”)…
    Also, props to Mitrane to wear that pyjama curtain with such dignity.

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    1. but really, so much confident handling of power.
      and of course, with Mitrane present it’s less intimate anyway.

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  11. It seems she is always playing the role of the perfect Queen to keep things together, afraid to let go of control even in this supposedly romantic situation?

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    1. Good take – the issue of a woman in power/control, and at what price can one relinquish it? I can see that.
      Also Arsace’s slight discomfort and complete cluelessness.

      It seems – oh, nice JDD eyebrow rise over the gold laurel – that this Semiramide doesn’t trust herself to fall in love, or cannot allow herself to let go? As if she dreams of Arsace, but keeps it in that space even if she could make another move?

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      1. Hmm, yes, it is a bit strange why she doesn’t go further when he has supposedly just declared his love for her, yes maybe she doesn’t trust it to hold as soon as taken out of the official context, as if she subconsciously knows there’s something wrong?

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        1. yes, that – also fits with that sort of maternal energy that is there from the start (completely different from the Lime Green, where it’s a shock to the audience as much as to Semiramide)

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      1. “Do keep talking, Did I mention you go really well with my couch, btw, I haven’t had dinner yet, I think you just made it onto the menu”?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. what are cute ears? (Wait, I will check in a few minutes)
      (hey, I am proud of myself for not making a specific comment during, eh, earlier scenes)

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  12. Semiramide Mezzo Power Speech.
    JDD has some great facial expressions there – all power glare and — oh, sorry, there’s Arsace swaggering in. Now where shall I look? Conflict!!

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    1. but how does it fit with his less symbolical, more political things before and afterwards? I think I am frustrated at not being able to see a stringent line (which he perhaps didn’t try for)

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  13. also this static statue bit: yes, nice image, perhaps, but how does it fit into the rest? Does he want psychology (as JDD does), does he want commentary/illustration? Argh.

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    1. Confused indeed, I think he really just mixes ideas together, knowing that it gives quite effective pictures and that’s apparently enough to make some fairly happy, if the idea of the house is to have a “cool”event. He made a similar remark about lack of clear concept in an interview on the Hugenots.

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      1. as a scholar who is used to consecutive logic, or at least trained to look for it, that is so “Gnaaaaaarghgrrrrrl!!!” (though yes, it does work well at times)

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  14. Assur already taking off his helmet and getting into position when Semiramde starts with “And the man I’ll marry is…”
    BWhahaaa.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Azema starts protesting, and Semiramide just has one condescending look… that’s really telling a relationship in three looks. very good, precise work.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I could watch Semiramide processing in close-up profile for another hour. Or five.
    Damn, and now we’re postponing until tomorrow?

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          1. then enjoy your rest – I’m off to a staff meeting I am dreading… will feel ebtter with this past hour of comments in mind, though!

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