Rossini's Semiramide, composed in 1823, was his last Italian-language opera, and, in a way, the last gasp of the entire Baroque opera tradition. The murky plot comes from Babylonian legend via Voltaire, and the focus is all on the fancy singing. The opera was a staple of stages worldwide in the 19th century, associated with such idols as Giulia Grisi and Nellie Melba, but its over-the-top vocal stylings fell out of fashion in the slimmed-down 20th century, and it was rarely performed. Now that ascetic modernism is held in check, Semiramide has returned to the stage, although it's still not exactly common. The performers on this live recording made at a Rossini festival in Germany accomplish the admirable feat of not cracking under the strain, and indeed in the case of Bulgarian soprano Alex Penda (aka, Alexandrina Pendatchanska) of not letting the strain show at all. Penda, whose background lies mostly in opera of the High Baroque, has the perfect voice for the role, blooming, not overly large, fluid even in the higher ranges. Her male counterport, Lorenzo Regazzo, is very nearly as good. Credit also goes to conductor Antonio Fogliani and his group of Baroque-oriented orchestral players and choristers; Fogliani's touch is light, and he keeps the dynamic range of the music to moderate levels. The result is a space that allows the singers to do their thing. Naxos' live recording, accomplished over three nights, is commendably clear and free of audience distractions. A nice find for Rossini buffs, with some singers you should get to know better.