Rossini’s opera seria Semiramide, long regarded as a mere vehicle for vocal fireworks by star singers, has attracted serious kudos at this year’s Olivier Awards. David Alden’s staging for the Royal Opera House, a co-production with Bavarian State Opera, has won best new opera production. Transplanting the tale of the Babylonian queen to the modern day, with allusions to rising fascism and the Trumps, it is the first time a new production has been staged at Covent Garden since 1887.

Its stars, mezzos Joyce DiDonato and Daniela Barcellona, also picked up best achievement in opera for the roles of Semiramide and Arsace respectively. Tim Ashley wrote in The Guardian: “A fine actor as well as a superb vocal technician, DiDonato probes Semiramide’s tortured psyche with remarkable veracity. There’s depth and meaning in every phrase, and even the most exacting coloratura passages are placed at the service of the drama. Her duets with Barcellona’s Arsace are both spectacular and moving, their voices perfectly blended. Barcellona thrills with her dark tone in her arias…”

Daniela Barcellona and Joyce DiDonato in David Alden’s  Semiramide. Photo © Wilfried Hösl

Elsewhere, the smash hit musical Hamiltontook home seven Oliviers, a record...

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