Monteverdi Choir & Orchestra perform Handel’s Semele
On 2 May 2019, The Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists led by John Eliot Gardiner will showcase a new production of Handel’s Semele at the Alexandra Palace Theatre. This performance forms part of a prestigious European tour which will visit a handful of world-famous concert halls; the Philharmonie in Paris, Barcelona’s Palau de la Música, Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and Santa Cecilia in Rome.
Semele, often billed as an oratorio, is in reality an English-language opera, with a libretto by the Restoration playwright William Congreve, based on one of the more salacious passages of Ovid’s Metamorphoses; indeed the piece’s risqué storyline – “Handel’s sexiest opera” according to Gardiner” – is one of the reasons it was suppressed after only a few performances in Handel’s lifetime.
Semele has not been performed by the Monteverdi ensembles since they recorded it in the 1980s (described at the time by BBC Music Magazine as the ‘best-conducted Semele on disc’): this performance will give audiences the chance to hear a fuller version of the work, notably with some passages by Handel very rarely heard in modern performances.
In a concert-staging directed by Thomas Guthrie, a glamorous team of young soloists bring the music to life: a drama that combines themes of deception, sexual power-struggle, the delicate relationship between gods and humans, and tragedy – which is finally mitigated by the birth of none other than Bacchus, the god of wine.
The title role will be presented by the acclaimed English soprano Louise Alder, with young tenor Hugo Hymas stepping into the role of the amorous Jupiter. French mezzo-soprano Lucile Richardot will take on the dual roles of Juno, Jupiter’s jealous, machinating wife, and Ino, Semele’s sister. The international cast is completed by countertenor Carlo Vistoli and bass Gianluca Buratto.