Giacomo Meyerbeer: Semiramide

Meyerbeer Critical Edition

Edited by Marco Beghelli and Stefano Piana

Dramma per musica in due atti
Libretto: Pietro Metastasio (in Italian)
World premiere: 03.02.1819,Turin

“Meyerbeer's operas will be among the greatest works in the history of Italian music, regardless of the fact that the composer is not Italian.”
—Gazetta di Milano, 16.2.1819


After the death of the Assyrian king, the throne should have gone to his and Semiramide’s son, Nino. But when he seems too weak and incapable, Semiramide assumes his identity and assumes power. Princess Tamiri is to choose a husband. Among the suitors is Semiramide’s brother Mirteo, her former lover Scitalce, and his friend Sibari. Sibari sees through Semiramide’s disguise despite having thought her killed when Scitalce once threw her into a river after he falsely raised suspicions of infidelity. Despite this, Semiramide still loves Scitalce and tries to prevent Princess Tamiri from choosing him as her husband. Semiramide reveals herself and publicly denounces Sibari, she pardons Scitalce, and marries him while Tamiri and Mirteo are also wedded.


Meyerbeer's second Italian opera, composed for Turin, is based on Metastasio's Semiramide riconosciuta (Semiramis Recognized), one of the 18th Century’s most frequently-set opera texts. At this time in Turin – the years of the restoration – reference to the old opera seria was particular to the region. It was a matter of the subject’s aura. The original work’s intricate plot dealing with the legendary Babylonian queen was shortened massively and adapted to the contemporary Rossinian vocal opera. Particularly interesting is the introduction, which with protagonist’s appearance (which would usually occur later with an aria) represents a new type of large-scale scene that became associated with the composer by name (“Introduzione alla Meyerbeer”).

Critical edition

  • The score was thought to be lost in the second world war. An unknown manuscript copy made in the early 20th Century from Meyerbeer’s autograph in Berlin recently appeared at the Library of Congress, Washington D.C.
  • With the help of the original libretto and some accurate descriptions in reviews from the period, it was possible to recover all music from the premiere.
  • The score may also be provided with the correct overture (which is missing from the recovered source), borrowed from the previous opera Romilda e Costanza.

Recommendations for concert

Sinfonia - - timp.perc - hp - str 

1st Act No. 2 Cavatina des Scitalce Sperai su questa sponda
A - - - str 

1st Act No. 5 Canzonetta con Variazioni, Semiramide Più non si tardi
S.Chr - - - hp - str 

2nd Act No. 9 Aria des Isrcano No, No son vinto ancora
T.Chr - - - str