Synopsis[ edit ] Precis: Jupiter, King of the gods, takes the mortal Princess Semele to a secret hiding place on a mountain to be his mistress. Jupiter reluctantly agrees but his thunderbolts burn and consume Semele. From her ashes, though, arise her unborn child by Jupiter — Bacchus, god of wine and ecstasy. Zeus and Semele embracing, 18th century engraving Scene: Greece, in legendary antiquity The scene is the temple of Juno. Near the altar is a golden image of the goddess In the temple of Juno, Cadmus, King of Thebes, is preparing for the marriage of his daughter Semele to Athamas, Prince of Boeotia.
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After this time, he concentrated on oratorio and musical dramas with English texts. While most works had sacred or religious texts, two stand out for being secular: Hercules and Semele. Noteworthy in the score are the number and quality of accompanied recitatives a characteristic it shares with Il Pompeo , and the sheer variety of style and tempo markings 23, with nine unique in English works.
His ploy to bring a powerful story to the theatre met, perhaps predictably, with mixed reactions. All the opera people are enraged at Handel. However, Semele remains a work of high quality. As the late Lord Harewood put it: the music of Semele is so full of variety, the recitative so expressive, the orchestration so inventive, the characterization so apt, the general level of invention so high, the action so full of credible situation and incident — in a word, the piece as a whole is so suited to the operatic stage — that one can only suppose its neglect to have been due to an act of abnegation on the part of opera companies.
John Beard, who created the role of Jupiter Semele was first performed on 10 February at the Covent Garden Theatre, London, as part of a concert series held yearly during Lent. The audience naturally expected Bible-based subject matter. But the amorous topic of Semele, which is a creation of the late Restoration Period , transparently drew on Greek myths, and so it displeased those attending for a different kind of uplift.
Being in English, Semele likewise irritated the supporters of true Italian opera, particularly as Handel would also not write for the rival Middlesex Opera Company. Henry Reinhold sang the bass roles. Handel seems to have interchanged some of the music between singers.
These fueled an enthusiasm for the work that has not since lapsed. A recording with a similar cast was made in and issued on the Deutsche Grammophon label. This was revived in by conductor Christophe Rousset. Kennedy , Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, and Jacqueline Kennedy. Among numerous performances worldwide, the piece received a production as a fully staged opera at Opera Philadelphia in
Semele, HWV 58
All drink copious amounts of wine, the gift of Bacchus, until they are robbed of their wits. Love Cupid is invited to participate, but he is admonished to leave his darts behind and let the wine replace their effects. When the noise of their revelry reaches a peak, Apollo descends from the heavens, bringing with him calming, harmonious music. He is pleased by the celebrations, as Bacchus is, after all, his brother by the same father, Jupiter.
Handel’s Adaptation of Congreve’s Libretto for Semele
After this time, he concentrated on oratorio and musical dramas with English texts. While most works had sacred or religious texts, two stand out for being secular: Hercules and Semele. Noteworthy in the score are the number and quality of accompanied recitatives a characteristic it shares with Il Pompeo , and the sheer variety of style and tempo markings 23, with nine unique in English works. His ploy to bring a powerful story to the theatre met, perhaps predictably, with mixed reactions. All the opera people are enraged at Handel.
Trying to delay the marriage, she invokes the gods to help her get out of her predicament. Her sister, Ino, is in love with Athamas and, under the pressure from her father, finally confesses to him. While Athamas ends up also learning of her feelings for him, Cadmus arrives with his retinue and tells of the abduction of Semele by an eagle. Semele appears from a cloud to reassure them. June learned from Iris that Jupiter keeps Semele protected by two dragons.