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Full marks for thoughtful originality here. The legendry Assyrian queen and warrior Semiramis is best known to opera lovers from Rossini’s opera Semiramide of 1823, an excerpt from which is included. Yet as this set comprehensively demonstrates, operatic treatment of Semiramis extends much further than that. In a prefatory note Bonitatibus suggests that over 100 compositions have been inspired by her; Metastasio’s Semiramide riconosciuta alone was set no fewer than 33 times. This disc includes extracts from his text not only by Jommelli and Traetta, who we know (but should know much better), but also by the unknown Andrea Bernasconi (1706–1784), whose 1765 version includes the exquisitely beautiful ‘Ah non è vano il pianto’.

It is not easy to describe Bonitatibus’ performances, except perhaps to call them mixed. The intrinsic vocal quality is creamy, but the voice has a fast vibrato that at times spreads. Notes are not always accurately placed nor, in the higher register, under control. Yet Bonitatibus has a rare gift. She is a splendid vocal actress who demands from the listener full attention to what she is singing about. One need only listen to the Bernasconi mentioned above to be totally drawn into the passionate, yet intensely vulnerable world of the queen. She is supported by moderately good orchestral playing. A compelling issue.

Brian Robins Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing