Semiramide, La Signora regale

The best-known piece on this fascinating composite operatic portrait of the notorious Assyrian queen Semiramide (Semiramis) is Rossini’s virtuoso solo Bel raggio lusinghier. The booklet describes Bonitatibus’s performance as a “world historical premiere” – the first recording using period instruments? – but it is limpidly sung by the Italian mezzo, better known for her roles in Rossini comedies. Here, as a performing musicologist, she unearths buried treasure – well, worthwhile discoveries by Caldara, Porpora, Jommelli, Traetta, Paisiello, Meyerbeer and Manuel Garcia – to chart Semiramide’s durable career in Italian opera. She also offers an aria by Leonardo Vinci that Handel used in his pasticcio Semiramide Riconosciuta (1733). With her pearly tone and easy coloratura, Bonitatibus sails through this demanding music. A passage from Nasolini’s La Morte di Semiramide is reminiscent of the Rosina-Figaro duet in Rossini’s Barber. Who borrowed from whom, I wonder? HC