The Metropolitan Opera HD Live (2006–…): Season 12, Episode 7 - Rossini: Semiramide - full transcript



[ Music ends ]

-Hello, I'm Christopher Maltman,

and I'm delighted to be your
host for Rossini's "Semiramide."

It has been 25 years since this
bel canto showcase was last seen

on the Met stage, largely
because its vocal demands

make it almost
impossible to cast.

There are few singers who can
handle the daredevil vocal feats

dictated by the score.

But today, we are fortunate
to have a cast of

remarkable artists taking on the
challenging principal roles.

Soprano Angela Meade
is Semiramide,

the legendary
Queen of Babylon.

Mezzo-soprano, Elizabeth DeShong
sings the trouser role

of the young warrior, Arsace.

Tenor Javier Camarena is
the lovelorn Idreno.

Bass Ildar Abdrazakov is
the villain, Assur,

and bass-baritone,
Ryan Speedo Green,

is Oroe, the high priest.

"Semiramide" has an ancient
Babylonian plot

with many twists and turns,

but you'll have plenty of time
to figure it all out

as this sumptuous vocal
and visual spectacle

takes our stage.

Maestro Maurizio Benini
is ready to go to the pit.

Here is "Semiramide."

-Maestro to the pit please,

Maestro to
the orchestra pit please.

[ Applause ]

[ Orchestra begins playing ]

[ Music ends ]

[ Cheering and applause ]

[ Orchestra playing ]

Yes, mighty god,
I have understood thee.

I venerate thy revered decrees...

...and await now the dreaded moment...

...of justice and revenge.

Now, to the assembled Assyrian people... foreigners, to princes, and kings... the temple's golden doors.

Ministers, reveal the sacred temple to Baal!

And you, Magi, join me here.

Let us venerate Baal and honor him!

Let festive hymns and mystic chants
rise to him on this happy day!

This holy day is sacred to Baal.

Festive hymns and mystic chants
sound out on this glorious day.

This holy day is devoted to Baal!

From the Ganges, I bring gifts, O mighty god... homage to thy greatness.

In thy mercy, smile upon the fair hopes of my heart.

I beg thee to reward me...

...reward my constant and ardent love...

...a love that burns and aches.

Let Assyria now see a true successor to the throne.

At last, a true heir!

Yes, hope and rejoice for the successor!

The fate of all Assyria will change.

On this long-awaited day,
great events shall occur.

The Queen will anoint a successor to the throne.

The new King will be named!

Our Queen will name him!

She will not forget my loyalty and bravery.

You have aspirations?

You have pretensions?

To sit on the throne of Ninus.

You! How terrible!

Do you know who I am?

I know who Assur is.

Yes, I know very well.

Hearing his words, seeing his face,
my heart trembles within my breast.

I can barely hide my fear.

His words, his looks...
I can barely contain my fury.

I feel my heart quiver in my breast.

I can hardly contain my terror.

My heart quakes, and fear grips me.

My heart is filled with fury.

My heart is seized with fury!

I am consumed with terror!

Listen to the joyous ovations...

...the clamor that greets our Queen!

As glorious as a goddess, she approaches.

Oh, come, beautiful Queen of our hearts!

You have been returned to us!

Thanks to the gods for such a favor!

At last our eyes and hearts delight in you.

You know our love and devotion.

In her, gracious gods, preserve our honor,
the splendor of Assyria, and our love.

In her, mighty Baal, rests our honor...

...the glory of Assyria, and our love.

Amidst these kings and people,
with all their hopes and fears...

...behold, O Queen, the day all have awaited.

O great Queen, this glorious day is yours!

Amid all these kings and citizens,
in the sanctuary of the gods...

...why does my heart tremble so?

Why, poor heart, are you fearful?

Amidst these kings and people...

...with all their hopes and fears...

...that you see surrounding you...

...your great day, O Queen, has come.

Among these kings and people...

...with their hopes and anxieties...

...behold this magnificent day.

Behold, O Queen, your day of glory!

–Why does my heart pound so?
–Behold the Queen's day of glory!

–Oh, how my heart is trembling.
–This is your day, glorious Queen!

My heart trembles!

Approach the altar, Majesty,
and swear before all of Assyria...

...that you will choose the successor to Ninus.

In truth....

Why do you hesitate?

(He is not here!)

What are you waiting for?


[ Cymbals crashing ]

Oh, heavens!

Wait! Look!

What is happening?

Oh, horrors!

Ah! The sacred flame has gone out.

The angry heavens thunder and grow dark.

The temple shakes! Help us!

Misfortune assails us!

My soul is frozen with terror.

What will become of us all?

I am frozen with fear.

What will befall us?

What will happen to us all?

The temple is quaking.

Ill omens swirl around us!

My soul is frozen with dread.
What will happen to us all?

What lies in store for us?

What will become of us?

What misfortune awaits?

[ Applause ]

[ Orchestra playing ]

In Babylon at last!

This is the very temple of Baal.

What a solemn silence!

It makes this abode of the god
feel even more sacred.

Within my soldier's breast... heart, hardened by the horrors of battle... now filled with fear and awe
in the presence of mighty Baal.

Yes, an unaccustomed fear
and an awed respect.

What does Baal want of me, the son of Fradate?

My father, on his deathbed, sent me here.

And a secret order from Semiramide
summoned me to her palace.

Full of longing, my heart on fire for Azema...

...I flew here at once on wings of love.

Ah! I will always remember
the day of glory and happiness...

...when, among the barbarians, I saved her...

...saved both her life and her honor.

I made off with her in my arms,
rescuing her from her cowardly captor.

As I rode away, I held her in my arms...

...and knew she was safe at last.

I could feel her heart beating against mine.

Two hearts beating as one,
pounding with gratitude and love.

She opened her eyes.

She looked at me.

She smiled at me.

And she quivered.

From that day, how everything has changed for me!

Her gaze enraptured me, yes,
and my soul took fire!

The heavens parted, and love poured into me.

I shall never forget Azema and that day.

Never, never will I forget.

She opened her eyes and looked at me.

She smiled and sighed.

Quivering, her gaze held mine.

That sight forever changed the man I was.

Her eyes cast a spell on me and set my heart aflame.

The heavens opened, and love spread through me.

I shall never forget Azema and that day.

Never, never, never will I forget.

[ Cheering and applause ]

Ministers, announce to the High Priest
the son of Fradate.

I have been waiting for you, Arsace.

I kneel before you.

Rise, and come with me.

The last wish of my father leads me to you.

These are precious gifts that he hid from everyone.

Yes, give them to me.

At last, I see you, I kiss you...

...sacred relics of the great kings.

Here is the fearsome document of death.

Here is the royal crown...worship it!

And here is the sword that will avenge him...

...the dreaded sword that conquered Asia and Egypt...

...but is powerless against treason and poison.

Heavens, what are you saying?
Could my father have been....

It is still a secret.

But Ninus?

Betrayed and killed.

By whom?

Outside the temple...someone is coming.

It is Assur–that monster!

A god did not lead you here in vain.

Return here later. Farewell.

What strange words!

What am I to think?

And what of Assur, whom I detest?

Is it true then? Bold man!

Arsace in Babylon without my summons?

(What conceit!)

Tell me....

Why did you leave the command entrusted to you?

What has led you from the Caucasus to the Euphrates?

An order from my Queen and yours...

...and from my heart.

Your heart?

Would you dare ask Semiramide–

As a reward for my valor and loyalty.

The arrogance! I see...
and you dare to love Azema.

I adore her.

But you know she is the daughter of your kings.

She was destined from birth to marry Ninia.

Ninia is dead...
and Ninus suffered the same fate.

I rescued Azema from death.

And I neither know nor fear...

...any rival who could contest my love.

I know I love her, and that is enough.

Beautiful image of the gods... is Azema alone that I adore.

Dearer to me than any throne... the empire of her heart.

Her heart's kingdom is mine to rule.

Only the demigods of Assyria...

...are worthy to aspire to her hand.

No foolish, haughty Scythian...

...can contend with me for her heart.

No one but I can win her heart!

This Scythian will not yield to any Assyrian demigod.

Curb your petty arrogance and remember who I am.

I alone love Azema.

You? You do not know what love is.

You know nothing about it.

That cruel heart of yours
is not capable of tender love...

...of steadfast, honest love.

Its true gentleness is unknown to you.

You love only the throne.

The heart of Azema is mine alone!

If my soul is incited to anger... heart cannot restrain itself.

No, it will rage with fury!

–Despite your bold desires...
–Azema's heart is mine alone! vie in vain for Azema's love!

Renounce your love for Azema,
and tremble for your life!

–Renounce her love or fear for your life.
–Her heart belongs to me!

[ Cheers and applause ]

I tremble? Afraid of you?

I am leaving for the palace, for my idol.

There you shall see the power of Assur...

...who this very day perhaps will be your King.

You may one day sit on a throne,
but you will never be my King.

Never, never my King!

Azema will be my bride!


She swore to be mine!

Away, conceited boy!

My triumph is close at hand.

Yes, for me this will be a splendid day.

But for you, a terrible one.

Go, haughty man.

Bear witness to my triumph.

For one of us, a day of glory...
for the other, a day of shame!

[ Applause ]

[ Orchestra playing ]

How happy I am!

Arsace, my love, is in Babylon.

The gods have answered my fervent prayer.

–Finally I shall be....

The hour approaches when my destiny
and Assyria's is decided.

Tell me, is there any hope at all...

...that I might win your heart and your hand?

Semiramide alone decides who shall have my hand.

And your heart?

You are silent.

Do you love someone else?

Assur! Is he my rival?

But don't you know Assur?
How could you love him?

I know Assur all too well.

He has never inspired a single thought
from me...not a single sigh.

No, never!

I can breathe again.

Ah, put me to the test!

I already feel bolder.

You restore my hope.

My valor is reborn.

I long to punish my rival...

...punish his impudent daring.

Put me to the test!

Already I feel bolder.

You have brought hope to my heart.

I can feel the strength you inspire.

My impious rival will be punished for his boldness.

Yes, I will crush him.

Where is he?

And if your heart is still free...

...I beg you to take pity on me...

...on the tender love in my breast.

You will never find a more loyal heart.

You, my dearest, will be my only idol.

Honorable Idreno will adore you forever!

Sweetest girl, you are my idol!

I am your own Idreno.

I adore you, I adore you!

I adore you, I adore you!

[ Cheering and applause ]

[ Orchestra playing ]

Lift your spirits.

Let happiness return to your heart.

Here, the breeze wafts
the delights of love more sweetly.

The silent shade offers you the peace of love.

Arsace has returned, and will come to you.

This place will be radiant...

...radiant with love and pleasure.

A beautiful ray of hope and peace... finally shining brightly for me.

Arsace has returned, yes,
and will come to me.

My heart, which has been weeping,
trembling, and languishing....

Oh! How it breathes now!

My anguish is over...

...vanished from my heart and my mind!

My fear has vanished.

A beautiful ray of sunlight now gleams...

...shining brightly on my hope and peace of mind.

Arsace will restore serenity to my heart.

Arsace has returned and is coming to me.

Arsace has returned, and will come to you.

He is coming! He is coming!

How sweet the thought of his arrival!
My loving heart smiles at you!

How much dearer, after suffering,
is the tender moment of joy and love!

The joyous moment filled with love!

The joy, the joy of love!

After suffering, how much sweeter
is the tender time of love!

The exquisite moment of love!

How sweet the thought of his arrival.
My loving heart smiles at the thought.

After torment, how dear is the time of love!

Yes, how divine the hour of love.

[ Cheering and applause ]

[ Cheering and applause
continue ]

[ Orchestra resumes ]

But who approaches?

Mitrane! What news do you bring?

The sacred messenger
has returned from Memphis.

Oroe sends you the oracle
you have been waiting for.

Let us put an end to my anxiety.

"Your worries will end. You will find
peace with the return of Arsace..."

"...and a new marriage."

Thank you. Merciful gods, I adore you!

You summoned me, Majesty,
and I have hastened to you.

How I have longed for this sweet moment!

My heart is filled with the most beautiful hopes....


But the haughty Assur thinks he will be King.

Azema's hand will earn him the throne.

I will die for you, but I will not serve him.

Azema will not be his.

I know of his intentions.

Ah! Then you understand him.

And I will punish him.

If only you knew Arsace's heart as well.

Keep your honor and your heart faithful to me...

...and you may ask anything of me...

...and I will give you everything.

Anything you wish for will be yours.

To you, my Queen, I have devoted
my faith, my heart, and my sword.

The battles I won, I won for you.

I am ready to die for you.

I am ready to die for you.

No, you shall live for me.

Ah! If you could but read my heart!

–Then you....
–Ah! I must tell you....

I burn with love's passion!

Then have hope.

Your ardent passion will find its reward today.

Have hope.

In this happiest of moments,
my heart delights in images of peace and joy...

...and sweet feelings of love dispel my worries.

All my anxieties disappear now...

...and my heart fills with love.

My worries vanish.

Love takes its rightful place.

I am ready to die for you.

No, live for me!

I burn with love.

Everything you wish for I will grant.

My heart revels in images of peace and joy... this tender moment...

...and all of my worries vanish.

My worries vanish.

The dark clouds have passed.

[ Cheers and applause ]

[ Orchestra playing ]

Raise your proud head...

...noble Euphrates, exult and hope!

The long-awaited day has dawned.

Today, Assyria shall have a king.

With his strength, he will uphold your glory.

The day of Baal has returned.

You alone shall be the King of Rivers.

The divine King of Rivers!

Of all rivers, you shall be King!

I am here, princes, people, Magi... fulfill your wish.

Already my secret plea has been answered
by the oracle of Libya.

I have chosen.

First, you must swear that whomever I name... will cherish and respect my chosen one.

Swear before the gods... obey me.

To the King I shall give you...

...swear your devotion and loyalty.


Swear your devotion...

...and loyalty!

I swear to the gods and to you, our Queen... devotion and loyalty... the King you will choose for us.

We pledge our lives... the man you choose as our King.


I swear!

I swear my honor and loyalty.

Our honor and loyalty forever!

I swear!

Honor and loyalty!

We will worship and obey!

[ Applause ]

[ Orchestra resumes ]

The noble hero, who for the glory and peace of Assyria...

...he who for glory and peace
I have chosen as King...

...shall also be my husband.


This hero, so dear to you and to heaven...

...and, as husband, so dear to me...

...this King is Arsace.


What is this she says?

Long live Arsace!

(Oh, horror!)

(What a dreadful blow!)

Long live Arsace, our King!

And this is how you intend to betray
my hopes, my rights?

Eternal gods!
Shall we suffer to be ruled by a Scythian?

Will Assyria tolerate this?

Just think....

Be silent and tremble!

If today you are happy,
and if I dare hope for some reward...

...grant me Azema and
comfort my faithful heart.

Yes, she shall be yours.

You! Azema! What of me?

But my should know....
O gods! You should know that....

The throne is not the reward this heart asks of you.

No, I do not want the throne as a reward.

You have earned it!

Perform the marriage rites.

Come, Oroe!

But Majesty–

Assyrians! In him,
I return Ninus and his son to you!

[ Cymbals crashing ]

Ah! What is happening?

What is that noise?

Gods! What do I hear?

It is a sign from the heavens!

Does it signify anger or favor?


What a melancholy moan rises from that tomb.

A funereal cry echoes from the grave.

The grisly wail rises from below...

...and pierces my heart.

The blood curdles in my veins.

My soul is oppressed...

...seized by apprehension and dread.

Terror steals my very breath.

A melancholy moan rises from the tomb.

A ghostly shriek rends the air.

A deadly sound from the underworld...

...echoes in the air and in my heart.

My blood turns to ice in my veins.

My heart pounds with fear.

Seized with terror, I cannot breathe.

[ Rumbling ]

But why do the gods threaten us?

What do they want?

[ Rumbling ]

The tomb is shaking!

[ Crashing ]

The invisible hand of death opens its doors.

Who is it?

Oh, fate!

It is my husband!

The ghost of Ninus!

Where can I hide?

The ghost of Ninus!

I dare not look at him.

Oh, what horror! What terror!

The blood freezes in my veins.
My heart pounds with dread.

In the grip of terror... soul is seized with apprehension.

I am frozen with terror.

I cannot breathe! The horror!

Ghost of a demigod, whom I adore,
what do you want of us?

What brings you from the afterlife, fearful ghost?

Move your trembling lips and speak to us.

Speak. Have you come to punish?

Tell us if Arsace....

Arsace, you shall reign.

But first there are crimes to be punished.

You must sacrifice a victim to my ashes.

Follow the advice of the High Priest.

Think of your father.

Serve my son.

I shall obey you. Without fear I will
descend to your tomb. I swear it.

But who is the victim I must slay for you?

You say nothing?

Yet you are quivering?

Oh, heavens!

Are you leaving us?

He is leaving!

How I am trembling!
Ghost of my husband, you see my tears.

Allow that at your feet, there in your tomb–


Respect my ashes.

When the gods wish it, I shall summon you.

How awful!

A horror!

I am fainting.

I am dying.

Nature's eternal order convulses on this terrible day.

A wrathful god has unlocked hell.

Ghosts rise from the dark regions.

Death menaces us and afflicts
our souls with anguished horror.

Terror and suffering!

What a frightening apparition!

Everything around us declares
the wrath of the gods.

The eternal wrath of the gods!

Who has stolen heaven's favor?

[ Applause ]

[ Orchestra tuning ]

-At the end of the previous act,
Semiramide has declared

that Arsace will be
her husband and king,

provoking supernatural wrath.

In Act II, she faces
the tragic consequences.

Here is the conclusion
of "Semiramide."

[ Applause ]

[ Orchestra begins playing ]

Assur, my commands are sacred and irrevocable.

And I have obeyed them, my Queen.

You have never had
a more loyal subject, as you know.

And my affection, my devotion...

...deserve a different reward from Semiramide.

You have given me reason to hope.

You! What are you implying?

Have you no fear?

You saw the ghost of Ninus...

...and you heard him, hovering around us.

And you dare!

You, who poured poison
into the heart of the King?

Who prepared the poison?

Who gave me the cup of death?

Not another word!
You wicked man!

Unwary, I was deceived by your evil arts,
goaded to that desperate act.

You convinced me I was to be
banished from Ninus's bed and throne.

And to whom did you then
promise that bed and throne?

If you still hold your life dear...

...leave, and get out of my sight.

Go! Away with you!
At once, I tell you. Go!

I can no longer stand the sight of you.

No, I will not look at a traitor.

The very sight of you revolts me. Leave!

First of all, my Queen, you should think...

...who drove me to betray the King.

Think who drove me to this betrayal.

With a single word, I can rob you
of both throne and reputation.

Assur can ruin you.
I can take away all you have.

You would not dare.
You would fall first.

But perhaps I would not fall alone.

I have Arsace. He will save me
by the favor of the gods.

You? The favor of the gods!

Look into your heart and tremble.

Remember that terrible night of death.

The horrifying ghost of your husband...

...there in the darkness...

...disturbs your restless sleep.

Your fright, your torment...

...your anguish and worries
are but slight punishment...

...for your guilty, ungrateful heart.

That dreadful night! Night of death!

Fifteen years have passed and still... husband's wrathful ghost haunts me...

...haunts his unworthy wife every night.

May my fright, my torment... constant worry and anguish
be turned against you...

–...used by the gods to torture you!
–A small punishment for your guilt.

–Your guilty heart will be punished!
–Assur, the gods will turn against you.

[ Applause ]

But the ghost of Ninus is not implacable,
and neither is destiny.

Arsace is protected from them.
He will pacify them.

Remember the victim,
whom the ghost of Ninus awaits.

He may first get his rightful revenge from me.

Meanwhile, you must respect Arsace as your King.


[ Fanfare ]


Oh, joy!

What joy this is!

The acclamations!

They are celebrating the triumph of my new husband...

...and the festivities of your new King.

But an ominous star may still
rise in the sky for you.

An ominous, threatening star.

My heart regains its former courage.

As Queen and warrior, I shall punish you.

The happy, longed-for moment is near.

Tremble, cruel man! You shall fall!

My heart defies the hardest of fates.

Queen and warrior, I do not fear you.

Let my fate come to pass, and swiftly.

I shall fall, but first be avenged!

–My heart regains its former courage.
–My resolve of old returns.

–As Queen and warrior, I'll punish you.
–Queen and warrior, I do not fear you.

–The day I yearned for has arrived.
–Let my cruel fate come quickly.

[ Applause ]

Now let my fate, the will of heaven...

...come to pass, whatever it may be.

Resolute, I await the gods' decree.

Prepare your soul for an unexpected, terrible blow.

You are Ninia.

I? What are you saying? Oh, gods!

Fradate saved you.
Everyone believes you are Arsace, but he is dead.

Therefore Ninus...

...was your father.

And Semiramide?

She is your mother!

Read the names of the criminals,
and learn your duty.

You frighten me.

"On his deathbed, Ninus said to his faithful Fradate..."

"I am dying. I have been poisoned."

"Save my dear son, Ninia, from the same danger,
so that one day he may avenge me."

"Assur betrayed me...along with my wicked wife."

Oh, the horror of it all!

I am beset by such cruel barbarity.
Open your arms to me.

Let my tears of sorrow dampen your shoulder.

Comfort me, help me in my sorrow.

My wounded soul is confused.

Help me, I beg you.

Oppressed by such burdens... heart fails.

My heart fails.

Stay calm. Remember who you are.

Serve heaven. Obey your father.

Wield his mighty sword.

He has asked his son to avenge him.

He has armed you and awaits you at his tomb.

Go now! It is time for you to strike and punish.

Yes, revenge!

Give me the sword. I take it now...

...the sacred blade of my father.

You rekindle my courage.

Yes, my deed shall accomplish heaven's will.

This sword renews my valor!
My strength is surging!

My fierce act will fulfill heaven's command.

Kill Assur!

Yes, that evil man shall die!

And Semiramide....

Ah! My mother!

Perhaps my tears will inspire
my father to forgive her.

Hurry now to accomplish the great deed.

From his tomb...

...your father, appeased, will guide you.

Assyria will be reborn!

Yes, once my father is avenged and the traitor killed...

...only then will my soul be at peace.

Then my heart may return to the sweetness of love.

Then my heart will beat only for love!

Hasten to the great deed!
Assyria will be reborn!

The destined revenge awaits you!
Assyria will rise again!

[ Applause ]

I have lost everything.

Let Semiramide know this.

The tyrant! O gods!
She has robbed me of Arsace.

He was everything to me!

Arsace was my beloved.

Arsace! Heavens!
What are you saying? And I?

You ungrateful woman, can you still love him?

You know Arsace will now marry Semiramide.

But the knot has not yet been tied.

The Queen has decreed that you shall be my wife.

I will obey her.

You will give me your hand?

You shall have it, if you want it.

All I want, all I long for, dearest,
is for you to love me.

The sweetest hope has already captured my soul.

The happiest of hours draws near for my heart.

I dared have hopes...

...but now, the most tender of them...

...sweetly fills my heart.

[ Applause ]

You as my wife, and in my arms!

Come, Azema.

Come, Idreno.

To the temple!

To the altar!

The Queen is going there.

She and love await you.

Yes, let us go.

But you are sighing.

You seem unable to stop your tears.

(Curb yourself, my jealous fury!)

(Restrain yourself, Idreno.
Temper your jealousy!)

(Temper your jealousy!)

May tenderness and happiness rule your hearts.

Let them live forever in your hearts!

May my happy wish be granted.
May you yield to the one who loves you.

Love me in return and share
the passion that burns in my heart.

Delight with me in love's bliss!

Yes, love will soon console you.

You sigh?

Come, let us go!

May I be happy in my wish.

May you yield to the one who loves you.

Love me, share my passion.

Celebrate with me in the raptures of love's bliss!

Celebrate with me in transports of love's bliss!

[ Cheering and applause ]

No! I will not let you go!

Do not avoid me.
Ungrateful man!

Why? And at such a time!

Ah! You do not know....

What are you saying!


Ah! I cannot go on.

That fearsome spirit, that menacing ghost...

...does he still haunt your mind?

Be calm, my husband.

Be silent, and leave!
Do you hear?

The heavens are heaving.

Can you not see that a threatening god
comes between us and pushes you away?

Leave now!

Leave you? Now?

Ah, Arsace!

Oh, my father!

What is that tear-stained paper?

Why are your eyes filled with horror?

You, too, would feel horror if you knew.

Who gave it to you?

The gods.

Who wrote it?

My father, on his deathbed.

Let me see it.


Obey me. I order you!

Very well then, read it, wretched woman.

Merciful gods, may this paper be
the only punishment you inflict on her.

What have I read?

You are...what horror!

Now everything is revealed.

Then strike me!

Do what the god wills.

Extinguish in my blood... abominable love, a detestable passion.

Strike me! Kill me!

Punish your guilty mother.

Avenge your father.

Punish me!

Avenge him!

Avenge your father.

First, let the gods unleash their anger against me.

The heart of a son could never be this cruel.

Never could the heart of a son be so cruel.

The heavens may despise you...

...but you are still my mother.

Though the gods hate you, you are my mother.

You are still my mother.

They hate me...and I deserve it.

Calm yourself.

I even loathe myself.
Kill me, stab me!

Son of Ninus.

Wretched woman.

Son of Ninus!

Stop your weeping.

Ah, you torment my soul.

Stop this. Calm yourself!

You weep?

Your tender soul can still weep for me?

Day of horror...and happiness!

In your arms, at this moment... heart can forget all the pain...

...the pain of its terrible fate.

It is sweet...
so sweet for one who moans in anguish... share this burden and weep together... find pity in a sympathetic heart.

To find pity!

[ Applause ]

Mother, farewell.

Wait! Oh, gods!

Where are you going?

To my destiny.

To the tomb of my father, to Ninus.

He wants blood.

And blood he shall have.

Whose blood?

Put your worries aside, Mother, and your fears.

Ah, a dark foreboding freezes my blood!

Now that heaven has given you back your son...

...I must hope for his success.

I go to beg pardon for you.

I cannot hope for forgiveness.

I go to punish a traitor.

I deserve heaven's wrath.

Wait for me to return victorious.

Come back triumphant...

...from the dreadful trial.

–I will overcome this terrible trial.
–Come back the victor!

[ Cheers and applause ]

The day is drawing to an end.

Ah! May it be Arsace's last.

That rash man must die.

Everything is coming together to hasten the blow.

Into this tomb...

...Ninus was driven by me, compelled by her.
But look, there!

The ghost!

What terror! I....


What is that noise!

Whose voices are those!

I am here. What news?
Why are you so agitated?

What is it? Speak!

Fate has betrayed us with no chance of revenge!

You will never sit on the throne.

No vengeance? No throne? Why?

Oroe has left the temple and
addressed the people and soldiers...

...whom we had provoked to anger.

He invoked Ninus and the heavens,
terrifying the cowardly crowd.

Now your very name arouses terror.

The throne will not be yours.

Ah! Fate has undone us.

You will not ascend the throne.

The throne...never!

Yes, there will be vengeance!

As long as I am alive, I will prevail.

By a secret passage,
one can descend to Ninus's tomb.

Alone, I will rush to kill
the wicked man and avenge you.

Beware, Arsace!

Ah! What do I see?
Is this madness? Am I dreaming?

That hand! An iron hand pushes me back!

Who is it? He!

Oh, those eyes! He brandishes a sword.
He means to attack me. Flee!

He is stopping me...let me go!
He has me by the hair.

He cleaves the earth...the abyss opens!
He draws me to the edge!

He is pushing me toward it!
Heavens, why can I not escape him?

How can I save myself? Oh, gods!

Stop! Be calm. Forgive me!

Let me see your ghastly visage no more!

I already feel the blade in my breast.

The abyss fills me with dread!

Go back to the peace of your tomb.

Have pity on my terrified heart.

Pity! Have pity on me!

Pity my terrified heart!

Let us be at peace.

I beg you...

...forgive me!

Relieve me of this terrible sight.

Return to the peace of your tomb.

Take pity on my terrified heart.

Have mercy.

Pity my quaking heart.


Pity my poor heart.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Oh! My lord! Assur!

Be silent! Flee, all of you!

Come, rouse yourself.

He threatens us.
Can you not see him?


Is he still there?

Only you are here with us.

But how? You....

Look there... he has gone.

I can breathe again.

I was delirious.
It was a dream!

And I...I was afraid of a shadow.

I feel ashamed.

If I lost control for a moment,
if I seemed weak to you... was the spell of an evil god!
But in vain does he try to terrify me!

Against every angry god and trembling ghost...

...over the horror of every tomb,
my strong heart shall triumph.

Over gods, fate, and the shadow of death itself... mighty spirit will triumph.

My heart is stronger than all my enemies.

Nothing can overcome my valiant heart.

[ Cheering and applause ]

What a dark night!
What a strange place we enter.

My heart is filled with fear!

A horror...

...a dreadful foreboding makes my blood run cold.

I don't know why, but I am weeping.

This is the great moment.

Draw your sword.

Think of nothing but striking your foe.

But whom shall I strike?
Where is my victim?

A god guides him.

What a mystery!
Ah! I see Assur approaching.

Oh, Father, yes.

Before your tomb, I shall slay him for you.

In this horrid place, Furies who agitate me... my steps and my sword.

Haughty rival!
Fate delivers you to my revenge.

Here you will find death and the tomb.

The wicked man is already here.

He is hidden in this dark place.

He awaits his victim.

But a mother is herself armed.

You whom I can no longer call my husband...

...accept these tears from
a desolate and repentant heart.

Yield to my prayers!

Defend my son!

Grant me your forgiveness.

Have pity on me. Pity!

Grant my plea.

Defend your son!

Forgive me this once.

I beg your pity.
Have mercy on me!

A sigh! Father, is that you!

Where am I?

Oh, heavens!

Who is moaning? Ah, perhaps....

Oh, Mother!

I tremble!

I shiver!

Where is my usual valor?

Where is my courage?

Where is my strength?

Ah! It seems to falter in this dreadful place.

What will happen to me?
What shall I do?

The misery!

Wretched me!

Oh, gods! I do not know what to do!

All my strength is gone!

Where is my courage?

Ninia, strike!

He must die!

He must live!

My is your vengeance!

Die, wicked man!

Oh, gods!


Arrest the murderer of Ninus!

In Arsace, you see Ninia and your King.


Oh, fate!

You are alive?

Who then did I kill?

Whose blood is this?

Heaven is appeased. Ninus is avenged.

Come. He shall now face his fate.

More horrible than death
is to see you on the throne.

Look, haughty man...see what you have done.

See who is dying.

Let me see.

It is your mother!

My mother!

Oh, horror!

I have killed her!

But you, cruel gods... guided my hand and my blow.

Where is that sword? Give it back to me.

My life is now intolerable, detestable.


Come, Arsace, to your triumph.
Endure your terrible suffering.

You have served the will of the gods.
Thanks to you, Assyria now rejoices.


The people exult in your victory.

Let them see and glory in you...

...glory in their new King!

[ Applause ]

-I'm with Semiramide herself,
Angela Meade.

Angela, bravissima, that was
extraordinary and majestic

in every single way.

-Thank you.
-Well, we've already heard

such thrilling singing from you,
and that was just Act I,

so, how are you feeling after
that incredible first part?

-A little exhausted.
A little excited.

-But is it difficult to pace
yourself in this role?

I mean, obviously, it has huge
technical demands.

-Well, the thing that I just
sang, the aria, the duet,

and then the Act I finale

are the most in
one fell swoop, so...

-So, now you can perhaps relax
a touch.

-Maybe a little bit,
a little bit.

-But, you know, this singing is
spectacular, it's complex.

The story is complex.

And with all of these
stratospheric high notes

and incredible coloratura,
do you actually have a moment

to step back and really get to
grips with Semiramide herself,

the character you're portraying?

-Yes, I definitely think so.

I mean it's so engrained in our
bodies now that, you know,

we can really sort of work on
the character and forget

the notes
and just let them happen.

-Well, that's self-evident.
It's an amazing performance.

-Sweet. Thank you.
-But you can tell us,

who is Semiramide?

-Do you want the whole story?

-Just give us a little precis,

a little taste of the
Queen of Babylon herself.

-Well, so she has murdered her
husband 15 years prior,

with the help of Assur,
the bass.

And she's feeling a little
uneasy about the fact that

the gods may come back
after her.

And she's supposed to appoint
a new successor to herself,

because in that day and age
women couldn't rule.

And so, everybody thinks she's
about to abdicate,

but then she says, actually,
just kidding,

I'm in love with Arsace and I'd
like him to be my king

and I'm going to continue
ruling, which kind of annoys

Assur, because he expects her to
give him the throne.

-Right. Well, as we said,
complex --

-It is.

and she's quite a lady.

And in fact, this particular
character has been played by

some absolutely legendary divas
throughout the years --

Dame Joan Sutherland included.

I mean, is she one of your, one
of your vocal heroines?

-Of course.
-Any others?

-Well, I mean June Anderson sang
it here years ago,

listened to her.

I listen to a lot of people sing
the aria

that didn't actually sing
the role, so, yeah.

-And, you know, I'm sure that
there'll be many young sopranos

out there who are now listing
Angela Meade

as their inspiration
in this role.

Really, it was stupendous.

-Thank you so much.
-You're welcome.

-Thank you.

-Now, I'm going to speak with
the High Priest, Oroe,

the rising young bass baritone,
Ryan Speedo Green.

Hi Speedo, how are you?
-Great, man.

-Look, as your career has
developed here, we get to see

you a lot at the Met,
in an array of operas from

"Parsifal" to "La Bohème,"
"The Death of Klinghofer,"

but Semiramide is
something different.

How is it, um, singing your
first bel canto role

here at the Met?
-Well, you know,

I made a huge, uh, breakthrough
singing in the comic opera, uh,

"Il viaggio a Reims,"
by Rossini

at Wolftrap Opera
in Virginia.

And this is a completely
different kind of challenge

because in this dramatic
Rossini opera,

most of the struggles that these
characters have,

most interpretations,
are internal,

while Rossini provides with his
comic operas lots of literal

and physical comedy to, uh,
to perform,

this is like a completely
different thing.

So, for me, it's, that's
an awesome challenge.

-Well, that's self-evident from
your investment in the role.

But, talking of drama, look,
congratulations on your book

"Sing for your Life,"

which tells your quite
incredible story.

And, could you tell us
a little bit about

the difficult path that led you
here to the stage of the Met?

-There's a long distance between
being locked up

and put in isolation
at 12 years old,

and singing with the likes of
Angela Meade, on the stage,

stage of the Metropolitan Opera.

You know, for me, one of
the things that I've been

consistently blessed with is
the teachers in my life

who've had faith in me
and believed in me --

from Mrs. Hughes, who believed
in me and,

when I was in her class of the
worst of the worst,

to Robert Brown who taught me
how to sing,

to the --
honestly, some of the greatest,

best coaches and teachers in
the world here

at the Metropolitan Opera,

Lindemann Young Artists Program
where I studied for three years.

-And, if you could pin it down
to one thing,

I mean, what would it have been
that made you change career,

change direction,
that led you here?

-It had to have been --
looking back,

at the age of 15, I took a field
trip to New York City

to see the opera "Carmen,"
at the Metropolitan Opera.

So, I was already kind of, uh,
in a great position

to see my first opera
at the Met.

And in that opera, um,
of "Carmen," the lead character,

the title role was played by
the African American

Denyce Graves.

-And for me as a young

15-year-old from a trailer park
in Virginia,

I never thought opera was
something that I could do.

I never thought it was something
that, you know, at the time,

that the greatest, some of
the greatest singers like

Leontyne Price had ever
performed on,

because I didn't
learn about it.

And to see my first opera

and have the person
leading that opera

be someone who looked like me,

completely made me believe
it was tangible.

And I think it's so important
for young singers

and young people everywhere to
know that opera is so inclusive

for everybody, all races,
religions and colors.

-Absolutely. Well, it takes
an extraordinary human being

to take huge adversity
and turn it into success,

and it takes a great artist to
be here on stage at the Met.

You are both things, Speedo,

and it's been a great pleasure
talking to you.

-Thank you, man, thank you.

-I'm joined now by mezzo-soprano
Elizabeth DeShong

and bass, Ildar Abdrazakov.


-So, um, Elizabeth, did you ever
expect to be competing with

this guy for the love of
the same woman?

-Well, I mean, I fail to see
the competition, really.

I mean...
-There's no competition, sorry.

-But seriously, though, I mean,
this score is so demanding,

so technical, I mean what is
the biggest challenge

in this role for you?

-I think just, just keeping
a direct focus

from beginning to end,
and making sure that

you're keeping the drama within
all of the notes,

within the score
that's difficult --

just keeping the drama going
ahead and holding that tension.

-Ildar, I know you began your
career with a lot of bel canto.

For instance, singing this role,
the role of Assur

at the Rossini festival, in the
composer's home town of Pesaro.

-I was so lucky to sing
in opera festival.

And I met there
wonderful musicians,

Ernesto Palacio
and Alberto Zedda.

And they just ask me, just,
"Could you sing Rossini?"

I said, "Yeah, of course.
It's easy, it's Rossini."

But I knew only
"Il Barbiere di Siviglia."

And they said, "Oh, but
we have wonderful opera for you.

It's 'Semiramide'."

They, yes, they showed me

video of this production,
was fantastic.

When I saw it with Samuel Ramey
and Marilyn Horne,

and I love it.

And now, today, is for me,

is like come back and that time

and I feel like, um,
explosion of notes.

-Well, it certainly
sounds like that.

You sound fantastic,
and look at the costumes

you get to wear
as well.

-Thank you.

-Elizabeth, one of the great
joys of this opera,

as we heard in Act I,
are the duets with the soprano,

with Angela Meade.
Tell us about that.

How do you work together

I mean was that inspiring?
-Well, fortunately, Angela and I

were able to work together
in Washington, D.C.,

in "Alcina" just before this,

so we had developed
a relationship and sort of

a kinship in
our musicianship.

And so, bringing it to

really was a natural

We were so excited to finally
sing together, to find we were,

we were so excited to get to
sing these two

famous, famous duets.

Um, it's just been a pleasure.

It came very naturally.
-It certainly shows.

It sounds glorious
from the two of you.

-Thank you.
-It looks fantastic.

-Thank you.
-And, look, toi, toi, toi

for part two, and thanks
for speaking to me.

-Thank you very much.
-Thank you very much.

-Now, I'm going to speak
with the final member

of our principal cast,
tenor Javier Camarena.

Hello Javier.
-How are you.

-Very well, thank you.

What a performance.

That first act aria
is just incredible

and you not only deliver all
those high notes, but, um,

you live up to the bel canto
creed as well

by sounding
absolutely beautiful.

-Thank you.
-We'd like to show our audience

what you can do, with a little
montage of some of your

very, very highest,
high notes.

-Sung on the stage of the Met.

-I've done some here.

[ Singing in Italian ]






[ Cheering and applause ]

-Wow, Javier.

That was a treat for me,
as well as for the audience!

I know also that you believe
that Rossini is not simply about

coloratura and high notes.

So, what lies at the heart of
Rossini's music, for you?

-Every coloratura, every single
passage we have there

corresponds to an emotion that
every role is filling,

every role is having
and experiencing.

So, you have to be very aware of
what you can breathe, really,

in the score, to make it, uh,
real also,

in the way you are
expressing the music.

-Not just spectacular but
emotional as well.

-It has to correspond.

Javier, thank you for speaking
with me.

-No, thank you, thank you.

-I'm looking forward to the
second half. Bravo.

-And I want to say hi to my wife
and my, my daughter,

they are in the theater
in Switzerland,

and Mexico Auditorio Nacional,

Monterrey, Jalapa,

So, here we are.
Thank you.

-Thank you.
Goodbye Javier.

[ Indistinct conversation ]