Opera: Giacchino Rossini and the Assyrians



Edgar Knowlton comments on the posting about the operas of :Gioacchino Rossini:  "Semiramide," set to a text of Voltaire, was not comic, nor was "Ermione." "The Italian Woman in Algiers," "The Thieving Magpie," and "The Turk in Italy" would be examples of comic, or happy ending ones.. "Tancred" was another serious one, but was also provided with an alternate happy ending. Rossini's music is so tuneful it is hard to resist. I attended a San Francisco performance of 'William Tell"  a few years ago. There have been videos in recent years of most of these. RH: Each of these operas has some interest for WAIS.  For example, Semiramis allegedly reigned over  Assyria for more than 40 years and conquered Persia, Ethiopia and Libya.  She is supposed to have founded Nineveh and Babylon.  Surprisingly for such a bellicose women, on her death she reportedly took the form of a dove. In realoty.Tte historical Semiramis was regent of Assyria (810-805 BC.).  Ancient Assyria corresponded roughly to modern Iraq. The Assyrians were ruthless conquerors.  It was they who took the Israelis into Babylonian captivity.  They are among the villains of the Old Testament, so it is safe to say to say that Israeli history textbooks do not treat them kindly.  They inspired Byron's "The Destruction of Sennacherib":

The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold
And the sheen on their spears was like stars on the sea
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee-

Archeologists have a great interest in the Assyrians, but how do they appear in  the history textbooks of Iraq and the countries they conquered?  What moved Rossini to compose his opera?


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Ronald Hilton 2004

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last updated: October 8, 2004