Wed 8 May, 8.30pm
Sala Santa Cecilia, Rome, Italy
English Baroque Soloists
John Eliot Gardiner - conductor
Thomas Guthrie - director
Semele, often billed as an ‘oratorio’, is in fact Handel’s only English-language opera: the libretto by the Restoration playwright William Congreve, based on one of the more salacious passages of Ovid’s Metamorphoses; and indeed the piece’s risqué storyline 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. A glamorous team of young soloists bring the work to life: an opera that combines 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.