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 Hamilton took home seven Oliviers, a record for a production that originated overseas. It won best new musical as well as awards for choreography, lighting and sound, while its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, won outstanding achievement in music. Best musical revival went to the National Theatre’s production of Follies.

Meanwhile, the Olivier for best new play went to Jez Butterworth’s epic family drama The Ferryman, which saw its director Sam Mendes recognised as Best Director and its star Laura Donnelly winning best actress. Best revival was awarded to the National’s much acclaimed Angels in America, with Denise Gough picking up best actress in a supportingrole for her turn as Harper.

Crystal Pite’s Flight Pattern won best new dance production. Exploring the modern refugee crisis, it is the choreographer’s first work for The Royal Ballet. Francesca Velicu has picked up outstanding achievement in dance for her performance in English National Ballet’s production of Pina Bausch’s Le Sacre Du Printemps.


Full list of Olivier Award winners can be found here