Semiramide is an opera in two acts by Gioacchino Rossini. The libretto was written by Gaetano Rossi based on Voltaire's tragedy Semiramis (it in turn based on the legend of Semiramis of Babylon). It was first performed in Teatro La Fenice, Venice on February 2, 1823.
Semiramide, with Assur, has secured the murder of her husband, King Nino. Her son, however, has escaped death and is now, as Arsace, a successful commander, his identity unknown to his mother. He is called back to Babylon, is in love with Azema and unwilling to support Assur in the latter's bid for the throne. Semiramide falls in love with him and declares him king and her consort, while Azema will marry Idreno. King Nino's ghost warns of crimes to be expiated and the high priest Oroe tells Arsace of the crime committed by his mother and Assur. Arsace, in the tomb of his father, meets King Nino's murderers, and seeking to strike Assur, kills Semiramide. He is finally declared King.
Semiramide is Rossini's last opera seria. The extemely florid vocal style is often a vehicle for spectacular vocal display rather than an intrinsic part of the score. The ensemble-scenes (particularly the duos between Arsace and Semiramide) and choruses are also of a high order, as is the orchestral writing, which makes full use of a large pit.
Semiramide was Rossini's last opera for Italy; the title role was written for his wife, Isabella Colbran. The work starts with a well-known overture, and throughout it calls for outstanding singers in the leading soprano and contralto rôles.
Semiramide is occasionally performed but is not part of the standard operatic repertoire. There are several recordings of it, the most famous being the Joan Sutherland - Marilyn Horne recording.