The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, led by John Eliot Gardiner, perform Handel’s Semele in Spring 2019
This project will take Handel’s Semele on a prestigious European tour in April & May 2019 – including a one-off performance at ‘London’s oldest new theatre’: the newly-renovated Victorian theatre at Alexandra Palace.
From the creative minds that brought you the RPS Award-winning Monteverdi 450 Trilogy, the tour comprises a handful of dates at some of the world’s most famous venues: the Philharmonie in Paris; Barcelona’s Palau de la Música; the Alexandra Palace Theatre in London; Milan’s Teatro alla Scala; and Sala 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.
The piece has not been performed by John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi ensembles since they recorded it in the 1980s (the recording described by BBC Music Magazine as the ‘best-conducted Semele on disc’): and the 2019 performances will give the chance to hear a fuller version of the work, notably with some passages by Handel very rarely heard in modern performances. Close examination of Handel’s autograph (held in the British Library) and some fragmentary sketches (held in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge) reveals the complex series of revisions made by Handel; it will be fascinating to explore some of these.
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.
We are thrilled to welcome soprano Louise Alder in the title role and the young tenor Hugo Hymas as 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 soloists familiar to our audiences; countertenor Carlo Vistoli and bass Gianluca Buratto.
Philharmonie de Paris
Monday 8 April 2019 at 7.30pm
Palau de la Música, Barcelona
Wednesday 24 April 2019 at 8.00pm
Alexandra Palace, London
Thursday 2 May 2019 at 7.30pm
Teatro alla Scala, Milan
Monday 6 May 2019 at 8.00pm
Sala Santa Cecilia, Rome
Wednesday 8 May 2019 at 8.30pm
English Baroque Soloists
John Eliot Gardiner - conductor
Thomas Guthrie - director