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Christine Weidinger Returns to Met

October 27, 1992 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ It was the ever-exciting show biz story at the Metropolitan Opera. Soprano Christine Weidinger left a kid and came back in triumph.

In 1972, she won the Met Auditions for Young Singers, the prize being a Met contract. Marilyn Horne suggested that she hone her craft in Europe. She did and returned to the Met Monday night in the title role of Rossini’s ″Semiramide.″

Her performance, unleashing a voice that is both dramatic, with rich chest tones, and coloratura, was one of two highlights of the evening. It is no wonder that Weidinger, during her time in Europe, began to specialize in the bel canto operas brought back into the repertoire by Maria Callas.

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The other high point was her well-rehearsed duets with mezzo-soprano Gloria Scalchi. It is a distinct pleasure to hear Rossini soprano-mezzo duets and not wish one could be hearing Dame Joan Sutherland, who has retired, and Marilyn Horne. Weidinger and Scalchi blended in a similar manner and sounded not only wonderful but vocally at home with each other.

Otherwise, the evening wasn’t as successful.

Scalchi has sung the role of Arsace before, but here her voice didn’t sound the same in different registers and it didn’t sound very musical. She was making her Met debut. So was Youmi Cho, a winner in this year’s Met Auditions, who sang Azema. She sounded pale.

The bass role of Assur requires coloratura singing. Barseg Tumanyan, who looked good, seemed to struggle mightily for that vocal flexibility but he didn’t achieve it. Tenor Frank Lopardo wasn’t sounding very musical either.

Rossini repeated phrases a good deal in ″Semiramide.″ Since this production was new in 1990, the Met has cut some of the music. Conductor Ion Marin, who has recorded ″Semiramide,″ made his Met debut on Monday. The orchestra under his baton and the chorus sounded very good.

The costumes and scenery are attractive, the latter accomplishing a lot with sliding panels, different backdrops and a throne that comes up from below the stage.

The opera’s plot is complicated. Semiramide, widowed queen of ancient Babylon, decides to marry Arsace, captain of the Assyrian army. He’s in love with Princess Azema.

The high priest tells Arsace he’s really Semiramide’s son and that she and Prince Assur killed his father. Arsace, Assur and Semiramide go into a dark tomb, wander in the dark, sing a trio and Arsace stabs toward Assur, killing his mother instead. Assur is arrested and Arsace becomes king.

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